Sports Mouthguards

Sports mouthguards, also called sportsguards, are an absolutely essential piece of sports safety equipment. Unfortunately, despite the fact that thousands lose or injure teeth every year while participating in sports, sportsguards are often overlooked or underutilised by athletes. We are strong advocates of preventive dental care, which is why we create custom sportsguards for athletes of all ages.

A mouthguard is a piece of moulded plastic in the form of an arch that fits over the top teeth. A sports mouthguard protects the mouth & face in several ways. The guard shields the upper teeth from damage from impacts or blows to the face. Top & bottom teeth are prevented from impacting each other directly as a result of a collision or blow. It also protects the soft tissues of the mouth, especially the cheeks, from impacts with the teeth.

There are three types of sportguards: ready-made, boil-and-bite & custom. We want all our patients to be aware of the differences between types of sportsguards so they can make an informed decision.

Ready-Made Sportguards

This type of sportsguard is sometimes referred to as over-the-counter or stock because they are available at many drugstores or pharmacies. Ready-made guards are usually made from plastic or hard rubber in a U shape with a trough for the teeth to fit in & a lip that goes up above the gum line to protect the gums. While these sportsguards often come in a few basic sizes, that’s as customised a fit as you’re going to get. These are the most affordable but least comfortable type of sportsguards.

Boil-and-Bite Sportsguards

This type of sportsguard is also available at chemists or pharmacies. Rather than being ready to go out of the package, the guard must be heated (usually in boiling water) until it becomes soft & pliable. While it is still soft but cooled down enough to handle, the athlete bites into the guard so it shapes around their teeth. While this does create a slightly better fit than the ready-made sportsguards, boil-and-bite guards do not count as custom-made. The plastic they are made from tends to be less durable than custom guards because it needs to be soft enough to bite into. This means it won’t last as long & can fall apart if the athlete has a tendency to chew on the mouthguard.

Custom Sportsguards

This type of sportsguard is prescribed & produced by a dentist to fit a patient’s mouth exactly. The process begins by taking a mould of the patient’s teeth. This involves biting down briefly into a tray of paste. From that mould we create a stone model of the teeth over which the sportsguard is formed. The guard is made from durable plastic that is either poured into a mould or vacuum formed. Because they are built from a model of a patient’s mouth, custom sportsguards offer the more secure & comfortable fit. The guard is more likely to stay in place & allows the athlete to speak & breathe normally. The custom production process does mean that this is the most expensive type of sportsguard. We believe it is also the best, because when a mouthguard works well & feels comfortable, athletes are more likely to wear it when they should!

Many patients or their parents think that mouthguards are only for contact sports where athletes may be hitting or running into each other, such as rugby & Aussie rules. However, there are dozens of sports for which we recommend sportsguards, some of which are considered “solo” or non-contact sports. For example, we recommend sportsguards for gymnastics, mountain biking & rollerblading.


A nightguard is a mouthguard that you wear at night while sleeping that protects against damage & discomfort caused by teeth grinding or clenching.

Known as bruxism to dentists, teeth clenching & grinding is an unconscious behavior experienced by both children & adults. Because it often happens when you’re asleep, many patients are unaware that they have bruxism until they learn about the symptoms or the dentist notices damage.

Symptoms of teeth grinding & clenching include:

  • Worn or cracked/broken teeth
  • Jaw pain, neck pain, or even back muscle pain or tenderness
  • Facial pain, earaches, headaches
  • Higher sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet in teeth
  • Sleeping difficulty

Bruxism is linked to stress, anxiety, abnormal bites & missing teeth, but the exact causes of it are not well understood. There is emerging evidence that it may also be linked to sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, but until there is more conclusive evidence, our best option is to prevent as much of the damage & side-effects of bruxism as we can.

Mild bruxism may not need treatment, especially in those patients who clench but don’t grind & don’t have any of the associated symptoms such as headaches or jaw pain. For those with more severe cases, the best therapy is a custom nightguard made by the dentist.

Nightguards are made from a soft plastic or rubber & fit over your upper teeth (or bottom teeth in some cases) to prevent your teeth from touching. The rubber material prevents tooth wear & also helps absorb & disperse the biting forces, thereby preventing jaw pain & headaches that might originate from clenching tension.

While there are over-the-counter nightguards available, we highly recommend custom nightguards. Here’s why: the pre-formed & boil-and-bite guards you find at the drugstore not as durable or comfortable as custom nightguards. They’re more likely to impede speech or breathing, slip around, or poke you in the gums. When a mouthguard is uncomfortable, you’re less likely to wear it, therefore you’ll be exposed to all the potential problems the nightguard is meant to prevent.

Custom nightguards are created from an exact model of your mouth that we make by taking a mould of your teeth. Once your nightguard has been fabricated, you’ll try it on for fit at our office & if anything doesn’t feel right we can have it adjusted until it’s comfortable.

We should note that some people unconsciously clench their teeth while they’re awake without being aware of it. Once the dentist has called attention to this habit, you may be able to break it, at least during your waking hours, because wearing a nightguard during the day is not feasible for most patients. Find a way to remind yourself to consciously relax your face & jaw muscles. When the jaw is relaxed your lips should be closed but your teeth apart (the biting surfaces of your back teeth should not be touching). We suggest setting reminders around your home or workplace, or on your mobile phone, to remind you to check whether you’re clenching.

If you suspect that you may be clenching in your sleep, let us know & we can check you for signs & symptoms. Even if you don’t have discomfort or pain, the dentist or hygienist may be able to tell that you clench based on the condition of your mouth. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


 Book Your Appointment Online or Call us today in Manuka:  02 6295 2188, Jerrabomberra:  02 6255 8394, Calwell:  02 6292 2291, Casey:  02 5105 4767, or Weston Creek:  02 5105 2629, Canberra City:  02 5137 3695, Ainslie:  02 5112 2331.