Mouthguards and orthodontic treatment – your options explained

Mouthguards are required for most contact sports, including but not limited to: water polo, soccer, rugby, cricket, AFL, rugby league, basketball, boxing, martial arts, and hockey to name a few. If the sport is school or club based, often a mouthguard will be compulsory.

A mouthguard ensures that if there is a blow to the face, the impact on the teeth is lessened as the mouthguard absorbs the impact and as such protects the teeth. Consequences of not wearing a mouthguard include that teeth are knocked out, displaced or broken. When braces or aligners are being used to straighten teeth, people often wonder what they should do about a mouthguard as it becomes obvious that their normal dental mouthguard is not going to work as it doesn’t allow for the movement of teeth as they start to straighten up.

When braces have been fitted, we are often asked if they can still use a mouthguard. The answer is definitely yes. Although the archwires actually help to support the teeth, a mouthguard will not only help to absorb the impact of a blow but also protect the soft tissues (cheeks and lips) from laceration caused by the braces. If orthodontic treatment is undertaken using aligners, the aligners must be removed prior to inserting a mouthguard. Aligners will not protect the teeth from a hard impact.

There are many options when it comes to mouthguards. Mouthguards can be purchased from sports stores, pharmacies, dental and orthodontic practices. They may be reheatable or rigid, cover both the top and bottom teeth (bimaxillary) or just the top teeth. Rigid mouthguards are typically made at a dental lab and are of a high quality. They come in a variety of colours and are sometimes able to include a name and phone number inserted into the mouthguard during manufacture. Dental mouthguards require a mould of the teeth to be taken and usually take a day or two before they are able to be fitted. These rigid mouthguards are not suitable for patients undertaking orthodontic treatment.

Reheatable mouthguards are used for patients undergoing orthodontic treatment. They vary in quality due the different materials they are made from. A high quality reheatable mouthguard will not be inexpensive and will often come with a warranty (usually 12 months). Your orthodontist will be able to advise what mouthguards they recommend. The mouthguard can often be fitted during a normal orthodontic adjustment visit however it is best to call ahead to see if a separate appointment is required. The orthodontic mouthguard is a looser fit than a dental mouthguard. As teeth continue to straighten throughout orthodontic treatment the orthodontic mouthguard will start to become less well fitted and will need to be reheated and remoulded to the new position of the teeth. It is important not to use boiling water to accomplish this as it can melt the mouthguard, hot water should be sufficient. Instructions will be given on how to accomplish the remoulding when the mouthguard is first fitted. If you have any difficulties, the orthodontist will be able to assist.

Whichever mouthguard is recommended by your dental professional it is important that it is kept clean and in good condition. All mouthguards will come with instructions. They should be cleaned and rinsed before use and should be cleaned, rinsed and dried after wearing them. They should be kept in a cool, dry case away from direct sunlight and heat. Always replace a mouthguard that is split, cracked or has obvious damage. A new mouthguard may be required if significant dental work has been carried out.