Mouthguards or mouth protectors are dental devices that cover the teeth to protect the teeth, tongue, gums, and cheeks from injuries caused by conditions like teeth grinding or sports. Mouthguards are available over the counter or can be custom-fitted, which are available through a dental professional. Most mouthguards for sports are usually custom made as the upper teeth stick out more than lower teeth, hence have a higher risk of injury. In some cases, for example, when the person has braces, the dentist may advise a lower mouthguard as well.
Mouthguards can cost anywhere between $100 to $700 or more in the United States, depending on the type, material, and other specifications. The prices can vary depending on the dental professional and can also differ in different cities in the United States and other countries. Some dental health insurance plans cover a part or the entire cost of custom-fitted mouthguards obtained through dental professionals. Since health insurance policies vary, it is advised that patients check with their insurance company. Some dental clinics offer payment plans. People may also use their health savings account funds to pay for custom-fitted and over the counter mouthguards if possible.
Why do you need a mouthguard?
Mouthguards may be recommended for the following:
- Bruxism (grinding of teeth)
- Playing sports, especially contact sports like wrestling, basketball, hockey, football, or soccer, where there is an increased risk of injury to the face.
- Noncontact sports or activities, such as cycling, gymnastics, rollerblading or ice skating, and other activities, with high risks of falls, can also benefit from mouthguards.
Wearing a mouthguard reduces the risk of the following:
- Chipping of teeth
- Losing teeth
- Nerve damage to the tooth
- Damage to other structures of the oral cavity, such as gums, tongue, and inside of the cheeks
What are the types of mouthguards?
Different types of mouthguards are used for different purposes. They look different from each other and are made from different materials.
There are two main categories of mouthguards: Mouthguards designed to protect the teeth and the rest of the oral cavity from any injury due to sports or activities and mouthguards designed for patients with teeth grinding. The types of mouthguards include:
- Custom-fitted mouthguards: The dentist uses a mold to take an impression of the teeth to make a custom-fit mouthguard that comfortably fits in the person’s mouth. They are more expensive than other types of mouthguards, but they provide the best comfort and protection. They may be used for protection from injuries or can be used at night for those who have teeth grinding.
- Boil and bite: They are mouthguards made of a thermoplastic material that can be shaped by the person at home to fit their teeth. The mouthguard is softened by placing it in hot, but not boiling water. The softened mouthguard can then be placed in the mouth. The mouthguard is then pressed onto the teeth with the fingers, when the position feels right, the person has to bite down for about 20 seconds. The mouthguard is then removed and is kept under running cold water to set the shape. This process can be repeated multiple times with the device to reshape it to achieve the best fit.
- Adjustable over the counter mouthguards: There are several over the counter adjustable mouth guards to be worn at night, such as sliding pieces to fit the mouth.
- One size fits all mouthguards: There are ready to wear mouthguards available over the counter. They are cheaper than other types of mouthguards, but they rarely fit well and are produced in bulk. They provide the least protection compared to other types of mouthguards.
How long do mouthguards last?
The longevity of mouthguards depends on how frequently the mouthguard is used and the material. Custom-fitted mouthguards usually last the longest; they last for several years with proper care. The dental professional would be able to provide advice on how to take care of implants, making them last longer. Regular follow-up with the dentist is advised in the case of custom-fitted mouthguards. Over the counter, mouthguards are not very durable and may need to be replaced every few months. Children and young adults may have to get their mouthguards replaced more often as their teeth and mouth grow.
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