Types of Mouthguards for Children and Teens: Sports & Bruxism

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Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Lara Coseo
Alyssa Hill
Written by
Alyssa Hill
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Evidence Based
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9 sources cited
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What are Mouthguards?

Mouthguards, also referred to as mouth protectors, are protective devices that minimize the risk of injuries to the face, jaw, teeth, lips, gums, and dental arches.

They are removable devices that cover the upper teeth to help reduce injuries to the teeth and surrounding soft tissues. Mouthguards are also effective in preventing root fractures, crown fractures, and tooth dislocations.

Who Needs to Wear a Mouthguard?

There are a few types of mouthguards available for different needs.

For example, your dentist might recommend an occlusal splint (night guard) if you grind your teeth at night (bruxism). Untreated bruxism can lead to chipped, cracked, or worn down teeth.

In some cases, athletes need a mouthguard to protect their teeth while playing sports. These mouthguards provide protection from both indirect and direct blows. To provide effective protection, the mouthguards have to fit tightly, stay in position during contact to cushion the impact, and allow for easy speaking and breathing.

If you snore and/or have sleep apnea, special mouthguards are available to treat the condition. This mouthguard pulls the lower jaw forward to open your airways. The device can help aid in a good night's sleep.

Importance of Mouthguards in Sports

Mouthguards help prevent broken, chipped, and knocked out teeth. They also protect your child's face, tongue, and lips. These mouth protectors also redistribute forces from a blow to the head, which can reduce the severity of a concussion.

Importance of Night Guards for Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Untreated bruxism can lead to both minor and severe dental issues. Common bruxism-related conditions include:

  • Jaw disorders, such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)
  • Severe face and jaw pain
  • Frequent headaches
  • Temple pain
  • Damage to tooth enamel, crowns, and other dental restorations
  • Shortened teeth due to enamel loss
  • Chipped, broken, and cracked teeth
  • Cavities
  • Gum recession
  • Tooth loss

Importance of Mouthguards for Sleep Apnea/Snoring

Undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea stops you from having a restful sleep. This disruption can lead to health complications that may affect many areas of the body. People with sleep apnea also have an increased risk of car crashes, work-related accidents, and other issues.

Sleep apnea mouthguards treat the condition by pushing the lower jaw and tongue forward, opening the airways. Some mouthguards have a strap that wraps around your head and chin to hold your lower jaw in a specific position.

5 Common Types of Mouthguards

There are four different types of mouthguards available, depending on the patient’s needs and whether they need the device for bruxism or sports:

1. Custom Fabricated Mouthguards

Dental technicians make custom-fabricated mouthguards using a dental cast of an athlete’s mouth. They are the most popular mouthguard in dentistry.

These mouthguards offer good protection without negatively impacting speaking and breathing. These devices are created using a single sheet of EVA (ethyl-vinyl-acetate) that is heated and placed over a dental cast. They are also molded specifically to each patient’s mouth and teeth.

custom mouth guard on white background

These appliances also allow for orthodontic movement of teeth and have the most retention. On the downside, custom mouthguards do not provide long-term protection and should be monitored closely after a few weeks of wear. They are also the most expensive.

2. Boil and Bite Mouthguards

Boil and bite mouth guards are traditional, mouth-formed appliances. They are placed into boiling water, which softens the material and allows for easy placement.

The softened material forms to the teeth quickly and protects the mouth from athletic dental injuries. These types of mouthguards are available at most sporting goods stores and online websites.

boil and bite sports gum guard on an isolated background

3. Stock Mouthguards

The “retention” of stock mouthguards comes from biting down during contact. They are the least protective because they do not mold to teeth, tend to be uncomfortable, and make it difficult to speak and breathe when in use.

Stock guards are also purchased commercially at sporting goods stores or online websites.

Overall, they are a cheap alternative and are not highly recommended by dentists and orthodontists.

stock mouthguard

4. Occlusal Splints (Bruxism)

Splints are considered occlusal appliances because they help with teeth positioning and jaw alignment, especially while sleeping.

The hard acrylic devices are custom-made for every patient and protect teeth from grinding, clenching, and gnashing. The devices can also relieve jaw pain and discomfort, depending on the patient’s needs.

night dental mouth guard isolated on white

5. Tongue Retaining Devices

Tongue retaining dental devices are mouth guards that hold the tongue in a forward position. This prevents it from blocking the upper airway. Pulling the tongue forward allows for a wider gap between the tongue and the back of the throat. This reduces or stops sleep apnea and snoring.

How to Care for Your Mouthguard

To care for your mouthguard, follow these five steps:

1. Rinse

First, you’ll rinse your mouth guard with warm water as soon as it is removed from your mouth. Next, you’ll give it a basic cleaning with soap and water. Dish soap is the best option for this step.

Some night guards are made of a thermoplastic material that will warp if the water is TOO warm, so dentists always urge to use lukewarm water or cool water. Never use hot water to clean your mouthguard.

2. Brush 

The second step is to brush your mouthguard gently with a soft toothbrush. Do not use abrasive toothpaste (all whitening toothpaste is abrasive).

Do not put your mouthguard in the dishwasher to clean instead of brushing it.

3. Soak

Soak your mouthguard next. You can do this with a mixture of bleach and water, hydrogen peroxide and water, or denture cleaning tablets and water.

If you are using a bleach or hydrogen peroxide solution, use a 10:1 blend of water to bleach/hydrogen peroxide and rinse it thoroughly before wearing it again. You’ll want to soak your mouthguard for about 10 to 20 minutes.

4. Dry

Once your mouthguard is done soaking, wash your hands with antibacterial soap and remove it from the solution. Allow it to air dry on a hard surface until it is completely dry.

5. Store

Finally, place your mouthguard back into the case. Both the mouthguard and case should be completely dry before closing. Some cases offer additional sanitation features.

Criteria for Effective Mouthguards

To receive the best protection against injuries and damage, the Academy of Sports Dentistry (ASD) recommends the following criteria for a properly fitted mouthguard:

  • They should be custom-made and molded to the patient’s teeth. Commercial versions, such as boil and bite and stock, are not as effective and do not last as long.
  • They should protect and cover the teeth and surrounding structures, including the lips, gums, tongue, and dental arches.
  • They should have a minimum of 3mm covering the occlusal (biting) surfaces of teeth.
  • The material used to make them should be FDA approved.
  • They should stay in the correct position to prevent dislodging from direct or indirect blows.
  • It should be easy to speak, breathe, and talk when in use.
  • They should be professionally fitted by a dentist before use.

How Much Do Mouthguards Cost?

Mouthguards are typically not covered by insurance. Depending on the type chosen, prices range from $10-$500:

Custom Fabricated Mouthguards$300 to $500
Boil and Bite Mouthguards$5 to $35
Stock Mouthguards$15 to $40
Occlusal Splints (Bruxism)$300 to $2000

Resources

Koch Göran, et al. Pediatric Dentistry: a Clinical Approach. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2017.

Nowak, Arthur J. Pediatric Dentistry: Infancy through Adolescence. Elsevier, 2019.

Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.

Sleep apnea, MedlinePlus, July 2020, https://medlineplus.gov/sleepapnea.html.

Sleep apnea, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-apnea.

Jayesh, S Raghavendra, and Wasim Manzoor Bhat., Mandibular advancement device for obstructive sleep apnea: An overview., Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences vol. 7,Suppl 1 (2015): S223-5, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439678/.

Ferri, Fred F. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015. Elsevier Health Sciences., 2014.

Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.

NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/teeth-grinding/treatment/.

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