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How Do Custom Sports Mouthguards Protect Athletes?



There is a high incidence of injuries to the face, mouth and teeth that can occur in males and females in sporting activities. These injuries vary in severity and can range from injury to the gums, repositioning of the teeth or complete loss of a tooth or teeth or even a fractured jaw. Knowing how to prevent these injuries is critical for anyone that participates in recreational activities or sports that are physical as many of these injuries can be easily prevented.

Custom Sports Mouthguards

When it comes to protecting your teeth and your mouth, a custom sports mouthguard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be included in every athlete’s standard equipment. In fact, reports show that an athlete is 60 times more likely to incur harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard.

It’s also important to choose the right mouthguard to suit your needs. According to a recent study, school football players who wear standard, store-bought mouthguards are more than twice as like to endure some degree of mild traumatic brain injuries compared to those wearing custom-fitted mouthguards. Moreover, 8.3 percent of the players wearing standard, over-the-counter mouthguards suffered concussions compared to 3.6 percent of athletes wearing custom mouthguards.

The Value of Custom Mouthguards

There are several different types of mouthguards, including the mouth-formed ‘boil-and-bite’ mouthguard, the one-size-fits-all, store-bought variety, and the custom mouthguard made by a dentist. Though custom mouthguards are better than the others, they are not all created equal, with regard to their thickness, fit, and mode of fabrication.

A custom mouthguard is one that is tailored to your sport, with the appropriate fit and level of thickness to provide sufficient protection and level of comfort. Tailored mouthguards allow the athlete to completely clench their teeth without injuring themselves, which in turn improves their total strength and concentration. The snug fit also prevents slipping, ensuring that their speech is not severely impaired when communicating with teammates.

The materials used for custom mouth guards boast certain properties, including: hardness, stiffness, shock-absorbing capability, water absorption, and strength/durability. Early mouthguards primarily used latex rubber, though it was found to have lower hardness, lower shock absorbency, and less tensile strength and tear compared to polyurethane (PU) or Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA).

EVA and PU are transparent copolymer plastics largely used for padding and shock absorption in today’s sports equipment owing to their greater flexibility and durability.

Besides the choice of material and fit, custom sports mouthguards are also preferred because their design is based on the nature of the anticipated collision and characteristics and customized to the individuals mouth size and shape, lip and soft gum tissues, and teeth. These elements optimise the ability to absorb shocks and distribute stress of custom mouthguards, reducing the risk and severity of oral-facial sports injuries.

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Dr. Tali Waksman
A graduate from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Dr. Tali Waksman went on to work as the only dentist on a Native reserve, serving 2000 people after completing a residency at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. With a warm and friendly personality and close attention to detail, she treats every patient like family.