Dental Mouth Guards

A dental mouth guard is a protective appliance placed around the teeth. It is also called a mouth protector. A well-fitting mouth guard protects the teeth, gums, lips, face, and jaw from dental injury. A mouth guard may also help to prevent concussions. All ages should wear a dental mouth guard during a sport or activity that poses a risk of dental injury.   


Mouth guards may ease a blow to the mouth and jaw area. Wearing a mouth guard can prevent a knocked out tooth, chipped or broken tooth, or damage to the tooth nerve, cheek, lip, or jaw injury. A dental injury can alter the function and look of your mouth or jaw. Accidents can happen during any physical activity. The risk is highest in contact sports such as boxing, football, lacrosse, or hockey (during practices and games). However, there is still a risk of dental injury in non-contact sports, such as basketball, skating, or bike riding. A mouth guard (as well as other protective head gear) should be worn during all physical activities that pose a risk of dental injury. 


Mouth guards can cover the upper teeth only, or both the upper and lower sets of teeth. They can be worn over braces as well. Each type of mouth guard fits differently and may offer varying levels of protection, comfort, and breathing ease. Types of mouth guards include: 

  • Stock. These mouth guards are universal and already have space for the teeth to fit in. They can be purchased over-the-counter at a local sporting goods store or pharmacy, and are fairly inexpensive. Since these are "one size fits all" however, they may not fit well, offer comfort, or provide a good level of protection.

  • Boil and bite. This kind of mouth guard is first soaked in boiling water. Once softened, you can bite down on the guard to get a form fit of your teeth. These offer a slightly better fit than the stock options, and are commonly used for team sports. They can be purchased at your local sporting goods store or pharmacy.

  • Custom. These guards are custom-fitted by a dentist. It is the most expensive option, but will be molded exactly to your mouth and teeth, and offer a high level of protection. People with dental appliances, such as braces, may need a more custom-fitted mouth guard.  

Removable appliances, such as retainers, should not be worn during contact activities, or under mouth guards.


It is helpful to discuss mouth guard options with your dentist. In general, your mouth guard should:

  • Be made of strong material.

  • Be odorless and tasteless.

  • Be free of tears.

  • Fit properly and be sufficiently thick for protection.

  • Be easy to clean.

  • Allow you to breathe well and speak well.

Replace your mouth guard when it shows signs of wear or does not fit properly.


  • Discuss with your dentist the types of physical activities you participate in. Ask your dentist which type of mouth guard may work well for you.

  • Take care of your mouth guard. Rinse or brush the guard daily with water and toothpaste. Wash it with soap and warm water periodically. Keep it in a vented protective case.

  • Protect the mouth guard from high temperatures such as hot water or direct sunlight to prevent it from distorting.

  • If you already have a mouth guard, bring it to your next dental visit for consultation.

  • Follow up with your dental caregiver as recommended.