The different types of mouthguards and the best one for all children in school sports

Image used with permission from pixabayRecently, a patient from North Andover Massachusetts had a child who lost a tooth during a sporting event.  Such a traumatic event is preventable, and prompted us at Riverwalk Dental to write this article informing parents and young adults about their best options to protect their teeth while playing contact sports such as football and hockey.

As we discuss in our article titled, “Sports Injury in Massachusetts: How to prevent it and what to do if a tooth is knocked out,” we cite the importance of mouthguards and the long term value of protecting a young middle school or high school student’s smile.  At Riverwalk Dental we’ve been asked by our patients, which mouthguards are best and what are the options?  In this article we’d like to offer some advice for our patients throughout Massachusetts.

First, we would like to stress the importance of custom and professionally formed mouthguards.  Although any mouthguard is better than none and if families cannot make it to the dentist to have one made for their son or daughter, buying one off the shelf is your best option.  These mouthguards will do a sufficient job in protecting teeth from injury, although it is recommended to get a few because they wear quickly.

The most basic type of guard is a stock mouthguard which can inhibit breathing, as well as be bulky and uncomfortable. They can, although, be taken out of the package and used immediately, but they offer no custom protection for a child’s unique teeth formation and mouth.

Off the shelf “boil and bite” mouthguards are sometimes better than stock mouthguards, but these too have their limitations.  According to, these items often lack proper coverage of teeth and are thin and easily broken under stress.  They conclude, “As sports dentists and health professionals interested in injury prevention, we do not recommend store bought boil and bite mouthguards to our patients and athletic teams.”

Custom mouthguards that are formed by a dentist can insure a better fit and longer lasting durability for the sports enthusiast in the family.  There are generally two types, the older vacuum mouthguard and the modern pressure laminated mouthguard.

Vacuum mouthguards are an older technology but far superior to the store bought options described above.  In this case, a mold is made of a person’s mouth and teeth structure and that mold is used to form a mouth guard that is the proper thickness and size in accordance with a person’s unique mouth and teeth formation. Made with stronger and more durable material that does not have to be made from material soft enough to boil and bite, this product serves to better protect a person’s teeth from injury.

used with permisison from wikimediaYet there are limitations a dental patient should consider.  According to, with vacuum mouthguards, “adaptation to the cast is only fair, and the thickness of material that can be used with them is limited.”  Nevertheless, a mouthguard that will protect all your child’s teeth and have the durability to maintain its protective properties will cost far less over the long run.

Finally, the Pressure Laminated Mouthguard is the best option to protect your son or daughter’s teeth while playing sports in school.  Formed in layers, this guard is the best and most durable option for full contact sports.  Made from EVA material, this product offers precise formation to a person’s teeth and mouth, and therefore will not wear nearly as quickly as others over time.  As stated by, “As sports dentists and health professionals, we highly recommend the custom made mouthguard, especially those of the laboratory lamination type for the very best in oral/facial protection as well as concussion deterrence.”

Your child’s smile will be one of his or her greatest assets as they grow up.  Protecting that smile is important, especially if the child is in sports in which a tooth can be lost.  We hope this article was informative to our friends and patients throughout the Merrimack Valley area and all throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire!

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