Sports mouth guards to protect against dental injuries

Posted on August 13, 2021 in General oral health

Male athletes working out and one wearing a mouth guardWhat are sports mouth guards?

Sports mouth guards, also called mouth protectors or athletic mouth guards, are devices that are used to protect the teeth, gums and soft tissues of the mouth from sports-related injuries. The American Dental Association recommends people of all ages use a mouth guard if they are participating in contact sports or other activities that could cause mouth or dental injury.

Occlusal guards, or nightguards, which are used to prevent damage due to clenching and grinding teeth, are sometimes associated with the mouth guard category. However, occlusal guards are separate oral devices.

Who needs a sports mouth guard?

Sports mouth guards should be worn by anyone who participates in an activity that poses a risk of damaging the mouth, whether competitively or recreationally.

A sports mouth guard is recommended if you play contact sports. This includes, but is not limited to, football, soccer, boxing, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, volleyball and wrestling. Sports mouth guards can also be used for other non-contact sports and recreational activities that may cause damage to the mouth, such as gymnastics, biking, skateboarding, and ice- and roller-skating.1

Types of sports mouth guards

  1. Stock (ready-made) – Ready-made mouth guards are the least expensive and most commonly available type. These are typically available at department and sporting goods stores and do not require a visit to the dentist. Stock mouth guards come in a range of sizes and are not personalized for each individual mouth.
  2. Mouth formed (boil and bite) – These self-adapting mouth guards soften when placed in hot water and are then adapted to the wearer's individual mouth through bite pressure and manipulation of fingers and tongue. Dentists may assist with final molding, but otherwise, you can these types of mouth guards at many retail establishments and sporting goods stores.
  3. Custom mouth guards – These mouth guards are created in a laboratory or dental office from a patient’s bite impressions. A custom mouth guard provides the best fit, comfort, and efficiency, but is also the most expensive option and requires a dental visit. Comfort is an important aspect to keep in mind during the selection process because a mouth guard only works if it is worn.2

More frequently asked questions

  • If I have braces, can I wear a sports mouth guard?

Yes! It is particularly important to wear a mouth guard if you play sports and wear braces. Mouth guards will not only protect your teeth, but also prevent the braces from accidentally tearing your lips, cheeks and tongue.

Stock and boil and bite mouth guards are available for those who wear braces, but many dentists will recommend a custom-made guard for the most comfortable fit. These mouth guards will need adjustments as the braces begin to change the alignment of your teeth. Your orthodontist or dentist can create the custom mouth guard and monitor its fit over time.3

It’s important for a mouth guard to fit your mouth, especially if you have braces.

  • Do mouth guards prevent injuries?

Yes! Numerous studies show that mouth guards prevent serious dental injuries, like broken and knocked out teeth and jaw fractures, as well as injuries to your lips, tongue, cheeks and jaws.4 A mouth guard helps avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw by providing a cushioning effect between teeth and redistributing the force of a sudden impact. A mouth guard also helps prevent the teeth from cutting into the soft tissues of the oral cavity.

  • How should I care for a mouth guard?

It’s important to take care of your sports mouth guard by regularly cleaning it with soap and warm water and soaking it in alcohol-free mouthwash. You can also prevent bacteria from growing by storing it in a ventilated case when not in use so that it stays dry.

You should also avoid leaving your mouth guard in direct sunlight or in a hot car and be mindful to not bend the mouth guard the wrong way.

Like a toothbrush, your mouth guard can wear out, so it is important to regularly check for wear and tear. We recommend bringing your mouth guard to your dental appointments so your dentist can check it for fit and wear in order to determine if it needs replacement.

  • Is a mouth guard only for upper teeth?

Typically, a mouth guard only covers the upper teeth. However, if you have braces, your dentist or orthodontist may suggest a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well. If you have a protruding jaw, or an underbite, or you wear dental appliances like retainers, implant-supported dentures, or bridgework, then your dentist may recommend a mouth guard for lower teeth.

Final thoughts

Sports mouth guards are an important piece of athletic equipment. It is recommended to wear a mouth guard where there is a risk of getting hit in the face or mouth by a ball, stick, puck, flying body part or face plant into the ground.

You may wonder what kind of sports mouth guard is right for you. Ultimately, the most effective sports mouth guard is one you will wear. It should be comfortable, resistant to tearing and durable, as well as fit properly, be easy to clean, and not restrict speech or breathing. For more information, speak to your dentist who can answer any questions you may have.

Broken or knocked-out teeth do not grow back. Protect your smile and wear a mouth guard.


1Retrieved from

2Retrieved from

3Mouthguards. (n.d.). Retrieved from

4The Role of the Mouthguard in the Prevention of Sports-Related Dental Injuries: A Review: P R Newsome 1, D C Tran, M S Cooke