Gridiron Guide: How to Choose a Mouthguard

In football, communication is key. So why buy a mouthguard that hinders both your speech and oral safety?

In football, communication is key. So why buy a mouthguard that hinders both your speech and oral safety? Since mouthguards come in all shapes, materials and sizes, it can be difficult to find the one that best suits your preferred level of comfort without minimizing protection. Here’s what you need to know when purchasing your mouthguard this football season so you can spend less time at the store and more time on the gridiron.

THE RIGHT BLEND OF COMFORT AND PROTECTION

Many things go into finding the perfect mouthguard. For instance, you’ll want to take into account things like your position and whether or not you have braces.

If your role on the football field requires you to be one of the team’s more vocal participants, you’ll want to invest in a slim, tight-fit mouthguard so you can breathe, drink and speak much easier.

If all-around protection is most important to you, try a mouthguard that doubles as a lip guard. These mouthguards offer a molded fit and include a clamshell-like shield that covers the outside of your mouth. They do, however, tend to inhibit speech since your mouth will be covered completely.

For those with braces, have no fear. Certain brands offer specially designed mouthguards that conform to the upper and lower brace brackets in order to provide comfort and prevent lacerations to the lips. They also adapt to changes in mouth structure as your teeth adjust over time, which means you don’t have to change mouthguards as the season goes on. This is possible via a flexible, soft silicone material that flexes with the changes in an athlete’s mouth structure.

A more modern feature that players may opt for is flavored mouthguards. These mouthguards are infused with fruity flavors that combat the taste of rubber. While the length and intensity of flavored mouthguards varies by brand, they could last up to a whole season.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT MOLD

Almost all mouthguards nowadays can be customized to a certain degree. The best of the best are available through a dentist or orthodontist, but these can run upwards of $200. They require your doctor to take a mold of your mouth so they can send it to a company that makes them from scratch. If that’s not the route you want to go, you can find a similar level of protection at only a fraction of the cost.

The “boil-and-bite” method has been used for years and most mouthguards require you to perform this task to create your mold. Directions vary, but the main goal is to lower the mouthguard into a boiling pot of water and then bite down to secure the mold. This is a quick and easy way to get great protection and comfort at a lower cost.

If you have a sensitive mouth, some mouthguards don’t even require you to boil them anymore. Just dipping your new mouthguard into a warm or low-temperature pot of water will do the trick. A few brands also offer an instant-fit material made from a gel that automatically molds to your specific bite, which means you can wear it right out of the package.

TO STRAP OR NOT TO STRAP

Depending on league rules, or your own personal preference, you may decide to tether your mouthguard to your facemask. Whether you do so or not comes with its own pros and cons.

Strapped mouthguards are great for players who are constantly misplacing equipment. As long as they don’t forget their helmet, they can rest easy. Having a strap also shows coaches and officials that you are indeed wearing one. A downside of having a strapped mouthguard is that many players tend to carry their helmets by the tether. This is not recommended as it will wear down both the strap and the mouthguard.

Strapless mouthguards may not be allowed in certain leagues, but if you are allowed to wear one, keep in mind that they can go missing relatively quickly, especially during play. Still, some athletes find the tether annoying, which is why many decide to ditch it.

Convertible mouthguards come with a detachable strap and can be either strapped or strapless so they are perfect for those who are still deciding which option is best for them. Most convertible mouthguards also offer special features such as chew resistance and a variety of flavors to mask the taste of rubber.