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The Definitive Guide to Sports Mouthguards: Why Custom-Made Is Your Best Bet

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

In the arena of high-contact sports, the battlefield is fierce, with bats, balls, sticks, and pucks hurtling at lightning speed. It's a realm where your most valuable soldiers, your teeth, are on the frontline. We only get one set of teeth, and they don't repair as easily as other body parts, which is why it's so crucial to safeguard them.

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When you step into the arena of high-contact sports like hockey, football, or volleyball, you don a helmet for head protection and padding to shield your joints and body. But what about your teeth? That's where the sports mouthguard comes into play. Dive deeper with us to uncover the world of mouthguards and why they should be your trusted companions.


The Guardian of Your Smile: What's a Sports Mouthguard?

A sports mouthguard is a vital piece of protective equipment designed to shield your teeth, the delicate inner lining of your mouth, and sometimes even orthodontic appliances like braces. In the event of a head or face impact, this humble device can be your saviour, potentially sparing you from an emergency visit to the dentist.

While sports mouthguards are commonly associated with high-contact sports like football, basketball, baseball, rugby, lacrosse, hockey, martial arts, wrestling, skateboarding, and others involving falls, physical contact, or airborne equipment, their advantages extend beyond these domains. Athletes in non-contact or individual sports should also recognise their value. For young athletes engaged in activities where mouth injuries are possible, such as gymnastics or cycling, a custom-fit mouthguard should be as essential as any other piece of protective equipment in their gear.

Why, you ask? Here are some compelling reasons:

  1. Shield against Mouth-Related Injuries: Mouthguards mitigate the risk of injuries to your teeth, lips, tongue, or delicate oral tissue.

  2. Prevent Chipping or Breakage: They act as a protective barrier, preventing chips or breaks in your teeth.

  3. Guard Against Nerve Damage and Tooth Loss: In cases of facial trauma, mouthguards can prevent nerve damage and even tooth loss.

  4. Concussion Protection: They assist in distributing force during head impacts, potentially reducing the risk of concussions.

  5. Jaw Fracture Prevention: For high-contact sports like boxing or wrestling, where lower jaw/mouth injuries are prevalent, mouthguards provide crucial protection.

Imagine a sports mouthguard as a soft cushion for your teeth. It absorbs the impact when you fall, or collide with equipment or another player during the game. Typically, it snugly covers the upper teeth, while lower teeth require protection only in special circumstances, such as when braces are present or in extremely high-contact sports.

Effectiveness of Sports Mouthguards: The Real Story

It's essential to understand that, like any protective sports gear, mouthguards don't make you invincible. Injuries can still happen, but wearing a mouthguard dramatically reduces the risk of excruciating oral injuries that necessitate urgent dental attention.

Exploring the Varieties: Types of Sports Mouthguards

There are three main categories of mouthguards:

  1. Stock Guards: These are basic, one-size-fits-all mouthguards. While they're usually inexpensive, their pre-formed design often results in a less-than-perfect fit, potentially interfering with speech and breathing.

  2. Boil and Bite: Boil and bite mouthguards offer a customisable fit. They are made from a thermoplastic material that can be heated and moulded at home. Though affordable and convenient, achieving a proper fit can be tricky, and they often have thinner coverage over prominent teeth prone to damage, offering limited protection, especially for individuals with braces.

  3. Custom-Made: Custom-made sports guards are crafted individually for each wearer. They provide the most comfortable fit and optimal protection, making them the must-have for high-contact sports.

Customisation for Optimal Defense

Store-bought mouthguards often offer poor-fitting solutions that can't match the level of protection provided by a professionally crafted mouthguard. While the convenience of online or store-bought mouthguards may tempt you, for the best protection, consulting with a dentist for a custom-made mouthguard is highly recommended. Although they may cost a bit more upfront, custom-made mouthguards can save you money in the long run by preventing costly dental treatments for fractured teeth.

Perks of Custom-Made Mouthguards

Custom-fitted mouthguards offer several advantages:

  1. Longevity: While ready-to-wear and thermoplastic mouthguards may wear out within months, custom-fitted mouthguards typically endure for a year or more, maintaining their shape.

  2. Enhanced Protection: Custom mouthguards provide tailored protection where it's needed most, offering superior comfort.

  3. Unrestricted Comfort: They ensure a secure, comfortable fit without hindering speech or breathing.

  4. Durability: They offer higher resistance to damage.

  5. Ease of Maintenance: Cleaning is straightforward ensuring that unpleasant odours remain at bay.

Behind the Scenes: Crafting Custom Mouthguards

A custom-fit mouthguard is tailored individually for you and crafting them involves a meticulous process to ensure a custom fit and optimal protection. Here's an overview of how sports mouthguards are typically made :

  1. Dental Impressions: The process begins with taking precise physical impressions or 3D scans, capturing the unique shape and alignment of the individual's teeth. These dental impressions are then sent to a dental lab used to create a physical mould or 3D model which accurately replicates the size and contours of the teeth, providing the basis for the custom mouthguard.

  2. Material Selection: The dental lab will choose high-quality, dental-grade materials to craft the mouthguard. These materials are usually thermoplastic or ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), known for their durability, flexibility, and biocompatibility.

  3. Thermoforming: The selected material is heated until it becomes pliable. It is then placed over the 3D model or physical mould, allowing it to take the precise shape of the patient's teeth. This process ensures a snug and comfortable fit.

  4. Cooling and Trimming: Once the material has cooled and hardened, any excess material is carefully trimmed away to ensure a comfortable and precise fit. The edges are smoothed to eliminate any sharp or uncomfortable areas.

  5. Optional Additional Layers: In some cases, mouthguards may consist of multiple layers of material, providing enhanced protection. For instance, a rigid outer layer may be added for increased durability. In some cases, patients may also have the option to personalise their mouthguard with colours or logos if desired.

  6. Quality Check: The completed custom mouthguard undergoes a thorough quality check to ensure it meets the required standards for comfort, fit, and protection.

  7. Patient Fitting: The custom mouthguard is then fitted to the patient's teeth to ensure that it aligns perfectly with their unique dental anatomy. Any other necessary adjustments can be made to achieve an ideal fit.

  8. Delivery to the Patient: Once the mouthguard is finalised, it is delivered to the patient along with instructions for proper care and maintenance.

The entire process is carried out with precision and attention to detail to ensure that the custom-made sports mouthguard provides the highest level of protection and comfort for the athlete. This tailored approach distinguishes custom mouthguards from off-the-shelf alternatives, making them the preferred choice for athletes seeking superior oral protection. While it may take a bit of time, the end result is a perfectly fitting and comfortable protector.

In Conclusion: The Ultimate Safeguard

In the world of high-contact sports, custom-made mouthguards emerge as the ultimate safeguard for children, teenagers, or adults. While retail mouthguards may seem accessible, they often fall short of the standards required for optimal safety and efficiency. A professionally crafted sports mouthguard, provided by your dentist, not only ensures a precise fit but also enhances wearer compliance, significantly reducing the risk of injuries and concussions. Consulting with an experienced dentist will help you navigate your options, ensuring that you choose a mouthguard that not only suits your budget but also delivers the optimal level of protection.

Types of Custom Mouthguards: Tailored for Your Needs

At Ortho Tech, the custom-made mouthguards we provide can offer:

  • Force Distribution: They disperse direct blows evenly across the dental arch and mouthguard.

  • Gums and Tissues Protection: Prevents cuts to gums, tongue, and cheeks.

  • Jaw Fracture Prevention: Reduces the risk of jaw fractures.

  • Tooth Preservation: Guards against tooth loss.

  • Concussion Prevention: Aims to prevent concussions.At Ortho Tech, we offer two types of mouthguards based on your level of sport:

Sports Mouthguard
Basic Sport Guard - Duo Layer

Basic Sport Guard Duo Layered

Comprised of 1 (one) 3mm transparent and 1 (one) 3mm coloured layer. This type of mouthguard is suitable for adults and amateur athletes in high-impact sports like rugby, boxing, MMA and jujitsu.

Sports Mouthguard
Elite Sport Guard - Triple Layer

Elite Sport Guard Triple Layered

Features 2 (two) 3mm transparent and 1 (one) 3mm coloured layers. This is recommended for professional athletes and racket sports such as hockey and lacrosse.

Your patients can also infuse creativity into their mouthguards by choosing up to three colour combinations to personalize their design. Protecting your smile has never looked this good!


Want to know which type of mouthguard to recommend to your patients?

Feel free to contact us and we'll guide you through it.


While our blog can answer many of your questions, your patient is unique and each case is different. Discover more about how Ortho Tech Dental Lab is your ideal digital dental solutions provider.


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