There are good reasons why you don’t want to go with an over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguard to protect teeth during contact sports. They tend not to fit as well, are less comfortable and are significantly less effective than custom-fit guards.
And protecting the teeth is only one of the things they do.
The point is pounded home by research published earlier this summer in General Dentistry. The study involved over 400 high school football players who were assigned either custom mouthguards or standard, OTC devices.
Those who wore the OTC guards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild concussions than those wearing properly fitted guards.
Many variables contribute to MTBI/concussion injuries, and mouthguards — whose primary function is protecting the teeth — cannot completely prevent them from occurring. Previous studies have theorized that mouthguards can reduce concussion risk, however, because they help absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw.
Mouthguard thickness also has been shown to be a factor that contributes to the level of protection. The average thickness of the custom-made mouthguards in this study was 3.50 millimeters, while the average thickness of the OTC mouthguards was only 1.65 millimeters.
Lead author Jackson Winters, a pediatric dentist, summed up the issue quite well in the AGD’s press release on the study:
The benefits of protecting your child far outweigh the costs associated with a dental or medical injury, which is likelier to occur with a store-bought model.
Like any preventive measure, it’s an investment in health now to reduce the need for much greater, less manageable costs down the road.