There are a number of dental mouthguards on the market, all aimed at either preventing damage related to sports injuries or stabilizing and protecting the jaw and teeth against the progressive effects of teeth clinching and grinding. But how they fit is another matter, and fit is one of the most important factors in a mouthguard’s effectiveness.
There are three types of mouthguards:
- Stock mouthguards, which are prefabricated and sold at retail stores
- Mouth-formed, also known as “boil-and-bite,” which are heated and placed over your teeth, molding to your mouth as they cool; some brands are available commercially
- Custom-made, which are based on impressions of your teeth taken by a dental professional and made specifically for your needs
An effective mouthguard, regardless of whether it’s a nightguard used to prevent the adverse effects of nighttime teeth clenching and grinding or a sports mouthguard used to protect against traumatic impacts, will:
- Fit comfortably but snugly
- Be resistant to tears and punctures
- Be durable and resilient for long-term use
- Be easy to clean
- Not restrict your speech or breathing
The Academy for Sports Dentistry (ASD) recommends mouthguards that are fitted under the direction of an experienced dentist and based on physical impressions taken of the wearer. The ASD states that properly fitting mouthguards should cover and protect the teeth, arch and surrounding tissue.
A quality, properly fitting mouthguard should provide adequate thickness in all areas to reduce the force of impact, and it should not be able to be jarred loose or dislodged with impact.
Mouthguards custom made by an experienced dentist provide the best fit and the best protection. Stock mouthguards are made with a one-size-fits-most mentality and provide minimal resistance to dental injury. Mouth-formed guards offer more form-fitting protection, but often tend to be softer and less resilient, especially the at-home products.