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Mouth Guards

What are Mouth Guards?

A large anterior tooth chip sustained playing hockey with no athletic mouth guard.

This young man was playing hockey without any type of facial protection. Although the tooth was simple to repair, it will require a lifetime of monitoring and probable subsequent repairs. The injury could easily have been avoided had the patient been wearing an athletic mouth guard.

Athletic mouth guards are tough, flexible vinyl coverings for the teeth and gums which are thick enough to absorb the impact of blows sustained in contact sports, and protect the teeth from being knocked loose or fractured. They can be purchased at sporting goods stores, or may be custom made by a dentist.

Mouth guards are appropriate whenever a patient is involved in activities that are potentially dangerous to the teeth, gums and tooth-supporting (alveolar) bone.

The process of fitting Mouth Guards

Over-the-counter athletic mouth guards are simple to make by following the package labeling. Some require no customization and are ready to use right out of the packaging. Others are semi-customizable. Generally, semi-customizable mouth guards are placed in hot water to soften them. The patient bites into the softened plastic, which then forms itself around the teeth. As it cools, the mouthguard takes on a tough, yet springy consistency similar to a tire.

The edges of the athletic mouth guard can then be trimmed with a scissors to eliminate any pressure points or areas of discomfort. It’s important not to trim them so short that they lose their effectiveness.

Custom dentist-made athletic mouth guards are a little more involved. Typically, only impressions of the upper teeth are made. Stone cast replicas (casts) of the teeth are then made from the impressions. A heated vacuum former is used to soften and closely adapt heavy vinyl over the casts. After the vinyl has cooled it returns to a tough, elastic state, and is trimmed to the appropriate extension such that all the teeth and gums are covered beyond the ends of the tooth roots.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on December 17, 2018.

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