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“ An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of  Cure “ --- Old English Proverb

Accidents happen. This person had a swimming pool accident and managed to lose an upper incisor baby tooth. Two lower baby teeth were lost naturally. Not all accidents can be prevented. Mouth Guards are generally NOT worn while swimming.

Washington, DC., is home of the Washington Nationals. Many sports teams use Mouth Guards. Baseball however is one of the sports where again the use of Mouth Guard is not very widespread.
Photo taken May 2008. Nationals vs.the Philadelphia Phillies

A simple stock over-the-counter Mouth Guard. The strap from the lower  portion allows it to be secured to a helmet if needed. It can also be clipped off if not needed.

Sports mouth guards are soft rubber or plastic appliances which are worn in the mouth to help prevent injures to the teeth and  gums. Just as automotive seat belts can help prevent injuries, Mouth Guards  can cushion an accidental blow to the face helping to prevent or minimize injury to the teeth, jaws, and gums. Mouth Guards are not just for Hockey Players.

A somewhat more robust ready-made Mouth Guard. This example is particularly well constructed with solid materials, and a substantial opening to allow easier breathing and speech. This Mouth Guard is courtesy of Specialty Orthodontics of Chicago, IIllinois.

Falling off a skate board, or an elbow to the face are common accidents, and without a mouth guard, injuries. There are three basic types of Mouth Guards, but for Orthodontic patients who are wearing braces, the requirements for proper protection may be a little different.

Type I         Common ready-made stock off-the-shelf  Mouth Guard.

A plastic Study Model demonstrates how a Mouth Guard provides  protection while allowing   breathing and speech. This over-the-counter Mouth Guard is far more substantial than the orange Mouth Guard example shown earlier.

From this perspective one can easily visualize how the Mouth Guard also protects the upper and lower teeth from grinding or hitting one another.  Mouth Guard courtesy of Specialty Orthodontics of Chicago, Illinois.

Large Department Store chains such as Target often have a very large selection of read-made over-the-counter Mouth Guards available.

The sporting goods section is where Mouth Guards are most likely to be located.

This is just part of the Sports Mouth Guard selection typically available at a Target Department store.

Made of rubber or polyvinyl materials, such preformed Mouth Guards may not provide as accurate a fit as a much more expensive custom appliance made by a dentist. However, such off-the-shelf appliances often are more than enough to provide sufficient protection for many sports and leisure activities.

Patients with Braces frequently use this type of appliance because the teeth are undergoing movement and the orthodontic brackets which are attached to the teeth will not be knocked loose or traumatized.  Patients who are using clear aligners such as Invisalign may wish to use such an appliance as well because the orthodontic movement of the aligners will not be adversely affected.  More information on what types of ports Mouth Guards an Orthodontic Patient should consider is provided in a later discussion in a section  a little further down the page here.

Look closely at the Model and you will be able to see a  clear Invisalign Aligner.  The Invisalign appliance is compatible with being simultaneously worn with an over-the-counter Mouth Guard.

Type II        Mouth-Formed semi custom Mouth Guards

One step up and a little more expensive than the Type I Mouth Guards are Type II appliances which can be soaked in warm or hot water so that they change shape and therefore can be adapted to a person’s mouth. Sometimes called " boil-and-bite" Mouth Guards, these appliances are made of thermoplastic or acrylic gel materials.  When softened in hot water they can be adapted to the teeth and gums. 

This is a "Boil and Bite" style thermal forming Mouth Guard. All Braces must be off when such guards are adapted. This example courtesy of Sports Cheer sporting goods store in Leesburg, VA

If you do not wear braces, or use Invisalign style clear aligners, then this style of mouth guards is also quite acceptable. The costs, while not as low as Type I appliances, are still very reasonable. It does require some manipulation and contouring after dunking in hot water.  For less hassle and effort, if a Type I ready-made off-the-shelf appliance can capably do the job, then a mouth formed appliance may not a better choice.

A patient with Braces may NOT want to use this type of mouth guard at all as the soft plastic would envelop itself around the braces and wires. Once formed and cooled, the thermo-formed appliance may then prove difficult or impossible to remove. Orthodontic brackets ( braces ) may end up getting ripped loose, and wires may become distorted.

Type III       Custom-Made completely form-fitting Mouth Guards

Washington Nationals up to bat. Whether Mouth Guards are being used is uncertain.

A baseball hit by a Philadelphia Phillies hitter bounces off the wall at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. Hopefully the ball ends up in the glove and not in the face,  of this Nationals outfielder Number 34.

Type III custom made  mouth guards are the most expensive because they requite that your  Family Dentist or Orthodontist make a custom mold of your  teeth and a subsequent working cast model.

Custom made Mouth Guards require the Dentist or Orthodontist to make a mold and a subsequent working model, Fabrication of a high quality custom  Mouth Guards requires an accurate model.

With such a tight fit, such mouth guards are generally not recommended  for orthodontic patients because they would prevent orthodontic movement of the teeth. Another concern is that the mouth guard would not be able to adapt itself very readily over the braces and wires which are attached to the teeth.

Many factors including costs, whether both upper and lower teeth are having  orthodontic treatment, and whether Invisalign style appliances are being utilized.

A Mouth Guard should:

Easy Breathing and Speech are made possible by the generous  front  opening of this Mouth Guard.

Allow easy breathing
Allow speech
Be able to be quickly removed if necessary
Be comfortable to wear
Be rugged enough so that it does not tear or break
Fit well and not be loose or fall out
Be affordable

Not all sports or competitive activities require wearing a mouth guard.  On the other hand, many sports REQUIRE that mouth guards be  worn. Local and state public health laws, as well as school and University guidelines may dictate the mandatory use of Mouth Guards.

The American Dental association in a 2004 publication ( Journal of the American dental Association, July 2004, page 1061) outlines some common sports for which a mouth guard may be needed.

Here is a suggested list, in alphabetical order,  of sports & activities for which Mouth Guards are recommended. This list is published by the American Denal Association (ADA).

Washington, D.C. Mystics Women's Basketball Team. Mouth Guards are recommended  for Basketball


Equestrian Activities warrant Mouth Guards for the Rider. The horse is probably okay as is with no additional mouth protection.

Equestrian Events


Extreme Sports
Field Events
Field Hockey

Football, like hockey,  seems a natural application for using Sports Mouth Guards. Here the mighty University of Michigan Wolverine football team faces the equally mighty Michigan State Spartan football team on first and goal. Photo taken Fall of 2007 in East Lansing.

Professional Football Teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins are very familiar with Mouth Guards.

Ice Hockey
Inline Skating

Lacrosse can be a very hard contact sport. Mouth Guards are definitely recommended whether you have Braces or not.

Martial Arts
Rugby Shotputting
Water Polo

Surf's up. And what about Sports Mouth Guards ? Hmmm...

In summary, regardless of which style of Mouth Guard you choose to wear, persons involved in sports or other types of leisure activities should wear mouth protection. Whenever there exists the  possibility of trauma to the mouth, chin, or other parts of the head, a Type I, II, or III Mouth Guard should be worn. Ask you dental professional for advice regarding your  particular needs.

TO BE CONTINUED ............................................