Mouth guards: are they necessary? Published Dec. 23, 2014 By Tech. Sgt. Holly Marzula 22nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- What is a mouth guard? A mouth guard is a flexible appliance that is worn during athletic and recreational activities to prevent injuries to your mouth, face and teeth. When should I wear a mouth guard? It is advisable to wear a guard when there is any possibility of your head making contact with a hard surface or another person. They should definitely be worn when participating in activities such as basketball, softball, football, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, hockey, martial arts, skateboarding and all-terrain vehicle use. A guard can also be used when lifting weights to prevent damage from clenching. Are there different types of mouth guards? Yes, there are three types of mouth guards. The stock mouth guards are the least expensive, readily made and can be bought at almost any sporting goods and retail stores. They offer the least protection and require the user to maintain continuous biting pressure to hold them in place. This can interfere with speech and breathing. This guard is not considered an acceptable device for facial protection. The mouth formed guards are also available over-the-counter and come in two varieties. The first is a "shell" lined mouth guard which is made from an acrylic material poured into an outer shell, where it forms a lining. When placed in the athlete's mouth, the lining material forms to the teeth and is then allowed to set. It then has to be trimmed to fit. The second is a "boil and bite" guard. This is also called a thermoplastic guard. It has to be softened in hot water, placed in the mouth and formed around the teeth. The key to these guards is the fit and it is often difficult for the person to obtain an accurate "impression" of the teeth. These guards can be bulky and have a loose fit. The custom made mouth guard is the best option, not because a dentist might get paid for it, but because it most accurately fits the patient's mouth and teeth. It can be trimmed properly and is made from a model of your teeth. There have been some studies that indicate a custom made mouth guard can actually increase your strength. These guards protect your teeth and other facial structures to prevent damage. When should I wear the mouth guard? Any time there is a possibility of tooth damage. It is hard to remember to use the guard when you want to play that quick pick up game of basketball or ride the ATV but having it ready is the key. Can the Dental Clinic make a custom guard? Yes, we can. We do ask that you request the guard at your periodic exam. However, we can make appointments for the custom impression and fitting of your guard. We would rather spend the time making the guard than having to spend time repairing fractured teeth. To contact the McConnell Dental Clinic for an appointment, please call (316) 759-5181. Adapted from: KnowYourTeeth.com. An article prepared by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) . Copyright 2014 by the Academy of General Dentistry. Used with permission by the AGD. Dr. Shockley is a member of the AGD.