Sporting injuries such as chipped, cracked or knocked-out teeth, cut lips and broken jaws can be prevented or minimised by wearing a mouthguard, but not all mouthguards offer the same level of protection.
Organisations like the Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommend that kids, teenagers and adults should wear a custom-fitted mouthguard provided by their dentist, rather than a boil-and-bite mouthguard sold over the counter.
You or your child should wear a mouthguard during any activities that put your teeth or jaws at risk of injury from contact with other players, impact with balls and sports equipment or falling over. This includes:
It's just as important to wear a mouthguard during training as it is during the match.
While a mouthguard won't protect you from accidents, it can reduce the severity of injuries and trauma to your mouth and jaw. This could help you to avoid pain and the need for expensive dental treatments or surgery.
Mouthguards are available from many chemists and sports shops in two forms: solid mouthguards in a range of standard sizes and 'boil-and-bite' mouthguards that need to be softened using warm water and mould to the wearer's teeth.
These mouthguards are cheaper than custom mouthguards, but as they're not individually made, they don't offer the same level of shock resistance to teeth and jaws. They may also feel uncomfortable to wear, can affect your speech and can sometimes make it harder to breathe, which can affect athletic performance.
While any mouthguard is better than no protection at all, a poorly-fitted mouthguard could become a choking hazard if it gets dislodged in an impact and trapped in the throat.
A custom mouthguard is designed to fit precisely over your teeth, offering a higher level of protection, feeling more comfortable to wear and being less likely to come loose. It won't affect your speech or breathing in the same way a store-bought mouthguard can, so athletic performance won't normally be affected.
A personalised mouthguard costs more than one bought from a store, but it lowers your risk of needing dental treatments or surgery that could run up thousands of dollars.
Only a dental professional can fit a custom mouthguard. They'll take an impression of your child's teeth that's used to make an accurate plaster model of their mouth. This is sent to a dental laboratory where their unique mouthguard will be manufactured.
When the mouthguard's ready, your child's dentist will check that it fits properly and tell them how to care for it to keep it in good condition.
Kids' mouthguards can usually last for several seasons before they need to be replaced, unless they get damaged. You can help a mouthguard last longer by:
Bring along your child's mouthguard when they have their regular check-ups so their dentist can check its condition and replace it when needed.
Australian Dental Association. Mouthguards [Online] 2017 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Teens-12-17/Mouthguards
Australian Dental Association. Play it Safe: Wear a mouthguard [Online] 2016 [Accessed June 2019] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/getattachment/Your-Dental-Health/Resources-for-Professionals/Resources-for-Teens-12-17/Play-it-safe-wear-a-mouthguard/Play-it-safe,-wear-a-mouthguard.pdf.aspx