A mouthguard (also known as a mouth protector, mouth piece, gumshield, gumguard or nightguard) is a protective device for the mouth that covers the teeth and sometimes gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, arches, lips and gums.
Mouthguards are most often used to prevent injury in contact sports. They are also used as a treatment for bruxism to prevent tooth attrition, with TMD to reduce strain over the joint or as part of certain dental procedures, such as delivering topical medication for chronic gingival diseases or in tooth whitening.
Boil and bite mouthguards come in a pre-formed shape that can be altered by boiling the mouthguard in water, then biting into the warm plastic for a customized fit. Stock mouthguards are inexpensive, pre-formed and ready to wear. Unfortunately, both these types of guards are usually ill fitting, feeling bulky and may make breathing and talking difficult.
Custom mouthguards are typically regarded as the most protective and best type of sports mouthpiece. Custom made mouthguards are individually designed and made in your dentist's office or at a professional dental laboratory. With your dentist providing a custom appliance they are likely to provide the most comfortable fit and best protection. Your dentist makes an impression of your teeth and then constructs the mouth guard over a model of them. Because they fit and feel better, most athletes prefer customized mouth guards.
Mouth guards should ideally be replaced after each season because they can wear down over time, making them less effective. Replacement is especially important for adolescents because their mouths continue to grow and teeth continue to develop into adulthood. Many athletes who play several sports have new mouth guards made at their six-month dental checkups.