Importance of Mouthguards for Braces

Sports are as American as apple pie, and cheering from the sidelines is practically a national pastime!  We have many tween and teen patients here at Dudley Smiles, and one of the most common concerns parents have is how safe it is for their children to play sports while sporting braces on their teeth. I’m often asked if there any limitations or sports a child can’t participate in while undergoing orthodontic treatment.

The good news is that even while wearing braces, your child can still play any sport!

It does require some extra care and consideration, though, as protecting your child’s lips and teeth are of the utmost importance to us, and you.

Regular mouth guards vs. orthodontic mouth guards

The best way to protect at-risk mouths is an orthodontic mouth guard. Orthodontic mouth guards are different from a regular mouth guard.  A regular mouth guard is thermoplastic, meaning you must heat it and bite into it to create imprints of the teeth.

This is a problem with patients undergoing orthodontic treatment, because as the orthodontist moves the teeth, the regular mouth guard will try to move them back into their old position. This goes against the kind of positive tooth movement we want.

Another problem with a regular mouth guard is that it fits against the brackets too well.  If a patient wearing a regular mouth guard takes a hard enough hit to the mouth, the force can knock a large majority of the brackets off of the teeth.  Fixing this takes time and extra visits to us for repairs, and while we love seeing our patients, we know that’s inconvenient for you!

This is why the best protection for athletes in braces is an orthodontic mouth guard.  The orthodontic mouth guard is made of high grade silicone and has large rubber flanges that go under the lips to keep them from being pushed into the brackets.

When the lips are pushed into the brackets, the sensitive skin can sometimes get trapped around the wings of the bracket, or in the wire itself.  As the lip swells, it pinches tighter and tighter, and often the only way to dislodge your lip is to be seen by an orthodontist. Ouch!

Now that you know the difference between regular and orthodontic mouth guards, let’s take a look at some of your options.

Our pick for the very best mouth guard is one that is custom made by your dentist or orthodontist! But there are some great OTC mouth guards out there. Shock Doctor, Vettex, and Gladiator are a few of the companies killing it on the sports scene right now with a line of easy to use orthodontic mouth guards.

Shock Doctor

Some of the best sports mouth guards for braces come from Shock Doctor. They offer essential protection for athletes with braces, and are specifically designed to conform to upper brace brackets for instant comfort and prevention from lacerations.

Made with 100% medical-grade silicone, these mouth guards adapt to changes in mouth structure as teeth adjust during treatment. They’re reasonably priced, and available in strapped or strapless versions.

The best feature of the Shock Doctor mouth guards is that they’re some of the slimmest and most lightweight in their class. The company itself has a great reputation and solid history to back up its claims.


A custom mouth guard directly from your dentist or orthodontist will always give you the best fit and ease of use. Having a lip guard that fits exactly the way you need it to can help to keep you from biting yourself accidentally, and is still easy enough to wear while having a conversation.

That said, Vettex has one of the best reputations for sports mouth guards that contain a lip guard. These are simple and lightweight, although they can be a bit bulkier than others. Vettex offers a cost effective mouth guard, but be aware that they don’t offer custom models, and they’re not specifically made for athletes in braces.


Gladiator mouth guards are preferred by many wrestlers and mixed martial artists, since these are sports where it’s fairly easy to lose your mouth guard during a match. These are custom fit mouth guards that are reasonably priced. Another plus for this company is they offer a “self impression kit,” meaning you can make a mold of your teeth from home if desired. Convenient!

Extra info

  • The better mouth guards, and nearly every custom mouth guard, will come with a large, protruding front area that protects against damage to the lower teeth. This protrusion allows the jaw to move around without sliding off the mouth guard.
  • Some sports require a strap mouth guard. Check with your child’s coach to find out if using a strap is beneficial or required. Even sports without helmets can benefit from a strap sometimes, but be sure that it’s not a sport where the strap can become a liability, like lacrosse.
  • Unless your child is involved in wrestling (which require upper and lower mouth guards by law), an upper guard is usually more than adequate. This is because most combination upper and lower mouth guards don’t maintain contact with the teeth and could theoretically cause more damage than they might prevent. There are also warnings against using double mouth guards when there is a chance that the jaw could be twisted on contact. This could cause the mouth guard to snap, making the pieces into choking hazards.

Protecting your Dudley Smiles smile

When deciding on an orthodontic mouth guard, you want one that will really stand up to time and punishment. This might mean they cost more, but it’s worth it for the better quality and increased protection. As we’ve mentioned, a custom made mouth guard from your orthodontist will always be our top recommendation, but Shock Doctor, Vettex, and Gladiator are solid OTC brands. Their products are designed for custom fits in many cases, as well as durability and comfort.

Remember that your child’s teeth will be changing over the 2-3 years they have braces. That’s not even counting the subtle changes that occur every 2 weeks or so. Any mouth guard you choose will need to adjust for these changes, or be replaced often.

Protecting your child’s mouth is a big responsibility, one that we take as seriously as you do! With offices in Issaquah and Kent, we aim to provide convenience and flexibility for your family’s busy schedule. If you have a child in braces who will be starting sports soon, or a sports star who’s nervous about an upcoming braces treatment, our friendly staff has got you covered! Contact us today with any questions or concerns, and we’ll be happy to walk you through your worries. Dudley Smiles is here to help you protect your child’s smile!


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