The benefits of using a custom-made sports mouthguard
As it’s back to school (and university) season, many people are joining sports teams and gearing up for another year of hockey, rugby and other sports. If you play high-impact sports like these regularly, it’s really important to protect your teeth from chips, breaks and cracks. But is an off-the-shelf mouthguard good enough to shield your teeth from knocks, or should you opt for a custom-made version?
We asked our very own Edinburgh dentist Dr Jonathan Hiscocks to give us the low-down on sports mouthguards, and the benefits of investing in a custom-made version.
What are sports mouthguards for?
Mouthguards have been around since Victorian times, and were first developed to protect boxers’ teeth. It wasn’t until the 1950s that their use became common for other sportspeople, including those who played football, basketball, rugby and hockey.
Nowadays, it’s recommended that anyone playing sports uses a mouthguard - not only for high-impact sports, but any that might involve an accidental blow to the face, such as gymnastics. A mouthguard is an essential piece of protective gear for sports players. Just think - you’d always wear a helmet to protect your head, so why wouldn’t you wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth?
“Around 40% of dental injuries are related to sports,” explains Dr Jonathan. “If you wear a mouthguard, however, you’re approximately 60 times less likely to suffer from a serious dental injury. Dental implants and repairs can be very costly, so it’s worth investing in a mouthguard to save money (and pain!) in the long-run.”
Off-the-shelf vs custom sports mouthguards
Off-the-shelf mouthguards are sometimes referred to as ‘boil and bite’ mouthguards. This is because of the way they’re made - to fit the mouthguard to your teeth, you submerge it in boiling water, cool it down quickly and then bite into the guard to shape it whilst the plastic is still soft.
“Many people don’t like wearing mouthguards because they can feel uncomfortable or fit poorly,” adds Dr Jonathan. “When you buy an off-the-shelf mouthguard, it’s not tailored to the shape of your mouth so it’s likely it won’t fit quite right. And if it’s not comfortable to wear, you’re more likely to leave it at home… leaving you at risk of damage to your teeth while playing sports.”
Instead, Dr Jonathan recommends getting a custom sports mouthguard made specifically for your mouth. “Not only do custom-made mouthguards fit better, they also provide superior protection, functionality and comfort,” he explains. These can be made quickly and easily by your dentist. First, impressions of your teeth will be taken, then your bespoke mouthguard will be created from these moulds.
“When a mouthguard fits your teeth perfectly, it’s much less likely to fall out during an impact, and it can distribute the force of the impact much more evenly. It will also be far more comfortable to wear as it won’t rub against your gums and lips, and will still allow you to speak easily.”
So what about the cost? Off-the-shelf mouthguards are, understandably, much cheaper than a custom-made version. ‘Boil and bite’ mouthguards can be bought online or in a pharmacy for around £10, whereas a custom-made version will set you back between £60 to £80 at your dentist. “Considering the cost of a dental implant restoration is around £3,000, it’s a no-brainer. Invest a little bit of money and get a custom-made sports mouthguard to properly protect your teeth,” says Dr Jonathan.
Edinburgh school visits
As part of a scheme set up by OPRO Mouthguards, New Town Dental Care is involved in creating custom-made mouthguards for school children across Edinburgh. During a school visit, Dr Jonathan and the team take impressions of the pupils’ teeth (sometimes over 100 in one session), which are then sent away to the OPRO lab for the custom mouthguards to be created.
“The school visit team consists of myself, one nurse and one admin assistant. The kids line up and my admin assistant takes their name and completes their paperwork with them if they have not made a pre-order. They then come to me and are seen one at a time to have their impressions taken. All of the impressions then get sent by courier to the OPRO laboratory as soon as we leave the school. OPRO then construct the custom-made mouthguards and return them direct to the school for distribution to the pupils,“ explains Dr Jonathan.
“The advantage for the parents and the pupils is that they don’t need time off school to go to the dentist. They also get to have it looking how they want it, for example their mouthguard can be created with their favourite colour, or a Scotland flag or their school or club emblem!”
Don’t worry if your child’s school isn’t part of the Edinburgh school visit scheme yet. Pop in to New Town Dental Care any time to get impressions taken, and we’ll do the rest! We can create sports mouthguards for both adults and children, and we believe a custom-made mouthguard is an essential piece of kit, no matter what type of sport you play.