For years, mouthguards were used in contact sports like football, boxing and hockey, but seldom in other sports. That has begun to change in recent years, a change welcomed by the American Dental Association.
There are three main types of mouthguards: boil and bite, custom made and ready to use.
The ADA has two different councils that encourage proper use of mouthguards and offers a seal of approval. To earn that seal, a mouth guard must scientifically prove its safety and effectiveness.
Requirements to earn ADA seal of approval for mouthguards
- Each part must be safe to be used orally and not cause harm to soft tissues inside the mouth.
- There are no sharp edges.
- Boil and bite mouthguards must be able to be prepared by the average person without risking injury to the person wearing the mouth guard.
- The mouth guard must have sufficient ability to withstand impact and not tear. It also must meet a certain standard of water absorption.
The best type of mouth guard is one specifically designed to fit the mouth by a dentist. A dentist can take a cast of the athlete’s teeth and also factor in options like speech requirements for specific sports. That may not be financially feasible for some parents and they must choose one of the two over-the-counter options.
Of course, the best mouth guard is one that is used. A custom-fitted mouth guard that isn’t used will be of no use. The barriers to use have fallen recently thanks to high-profile use by athletes in sports that have not always used them. If a child sees NBA star LeBron James wearing a mouth guard he or she is more likely to use a mouth guard themselves. James even has a commercial partnership with a custom manufacturer of mouthguards.