Mouthguards are designed to protect your mouth and teeth from damage. They are highly favored by professional athletes and anyone who participates in physical activities. If you have been thinking about investing in this type of dental appliance, you likely want to know whether you need it, what different types are there, and when it is time for a replacement. Who Needs a Mouth Guard? Mouthguards are recommended for those who participate in sports with physical contact, or that can result in facial injury. This includes football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, skateboarding, gymnastics, boxing, and mountain biking. The typical mouthguard covers your top teeth because they stick out more and bear the brunt of any trauma. This type of mouthguard can also protect the lips, tongue, and jaw. Anyone can wear them, but they are especially necessary for people who have braces or other fixed dental appliances. Your dentist may also recommend a lower mouth guard if you have either braces or fixed dental appliances like crowns, bridges, and implants. Types of Mouth Guards There are a few different types of mouth guards. While some can be purchased over the counter, others are custom-made in a dental office or dental lab. Custom-made: Made to fit your unique bite and mouth configuration, custom mouthguards are the most comfortable and provide the best protection. Your dentist will take an impression of your mouth to send it to a lab. The lab uses superheated plastic molded and layered to precise specifications. After cooling, you have a stable and durable dental appliance. Dentists and professional athletes prefer these because they feel comfortable and provide the best protection. The snug fit ensures there is no unwanted movement, and the guard will stay on even when you open your mouth. Boil and Bite: The boil and bite mouthguard is a step below custom but a step above stock appliances in terms of quality. These can be purchases at most sporting goods stores and offer a semi-custom fit that is lower in cost and quality than a custom-made mouthguard from your dentist. The mouth guard itself is pre-formed, but it can be adjusted to fit your unique bite. You boil it in hot water and bite into the warm, soft plastic to allow it to mold to your teeth. Further alterations can be made by cutting it down if it feels too high and aggravates the gums. Stock: If you are not particular about fit or simply need something in a hurry on your way to a sporting event, you can always buy a stock mouthguard from a sporting goods store. These come pre-formed and are the least expensive option. If you clench or bite down hard, you may break the plastic. They don’t fit as well as the other types, which can make breathing and talking difficult. However, using this type of mouthguard is better than not using one at all. How Long Should They Last? Most mouth guards can be used for a year with normal wear and proper care. If you clench or grind your teeth severely, your mouthguard may wear out more quickly. At the very least, you will want to replace them after every sports season. For adults undergoing orthodontics and professional athletes, you should have a new mouthguard made or ordered at each six-month dental appointment. Kids and teens may need to replace their mouthguards more than twice a year. Their mouths are still growing and changing, so you want to make sure they always have the right fit to protect their teeth and avoid discomfort. Talk to Your Dentist For the best advice about which type of mouthguard you need, your dentist is the best source. They know your particular dental situation, and whether you grind your teeth or have sensitive enamel. Your dentist can also give you a better idea of how much your appliance will cost and if your insurance will cover all or part of the expense.