For any athlete, or even those who take part in sports or related activities on a regular basis, the mouthguard is a vital piece of safety equipment. It protects the mouth and face from various kinds of impacts that may take place during the course of play, but only if the proper mouthguard is chosen.
There are a few factors at play in selecting a mouthguard, whether it’s for a game like football, basketball or any other. What are some of the top features you should be prioritizing in any mouthguard you’re considering? Here are several to keep in mind.
Fit and Comfort
You could be looking into the greatest mouthguard ever created, one with perfect materials and proportions used — and it would still be nearly useless if it didn’t fit your mouth in a comfortable way. This is especially important if you’re thinking about getting a custom fit mouthguard for your next game.
These are molded precisely to the contours of your own teeth, which makes it comfortable to wear even during extended periods of time. And, don’t forget that gel or other kinds of foam padding used in many kinds of athletic mouthguards can be adjusted around the mouth to make a more comfortable fit.
Impact on Breathing and Speaking
Down related lines, another thing you should be looking at is the degree to which the mouthguard impacts your breathing, speaking and other functions. Mouthguards can come with or without ventilation holes to allow for greater airflow than if the device was entirely closed off. If it doesn’t, you might require a more open design, like one that comes with complete mesh panels along the inside.
There are two primary kinds of arch designs for mouthguards:
- Single-arch: This type of mouthguard only sits in the athlete’s upper teeth, typically the front six. It does not provide any cushioning in between the molars. For this reason, it’s typically best for low- or no-impact sports like soccer, baseetball and the like.
- Double-arch: This type of mouthguard is most commonly seen in boxers or other sports where athletes require a lot more protection for their teeth. It fits over both the upper and lower set of teeth and is typically thicker with an inner layer (or two) of gel padding to cushion impacts across the jawline. Of course, the thicker design allows it to offer a little more stability and protection for the wearer. It may occasionally come with an additional outer shell of plastic or another strong material to protect against even further impact.
Even within the double-arch mouthguard setup, thickness will vary significantly. Some are only one-quarter of an inch thick, while others are much closer to half an inch. This typically results in more support and protection (especially in the front teeth), but it’s not always a requirement for full protection.
Thinner mouthguards may be better for those who want less bulk in the guard itself or even in their cheeks after putting on the guard. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there is such a thing as too thin of a mouthguard for protection purposes — you should make sure that your custom fit guard has enough thickness and cushioning where necessary.
Flexibility Vs Form-Holding
Finally, you want to achieve the ideal balance between flexibility and form-holding with your mouthguard. It should remain flexible enough to handle the wide range of movements a player will exert on it, but firm enough to provide protection without letting too much impact through to the wearer’s teeth.
A lot of this comes down to quality materials used during manufacturing, so you’ll want something that has an outer layer made from a strong alloy or hard plastic that will help it remain protective. It should also have a thick, high density inner layer of padding to absorb impact more easily and evenly across the teeth.
Be sure to conduct your own research on these areas to arrive at the ideal mouthguard for your needs.