The Importance of Mouthguards in Sports

Usually used with contact sports, a mouthguard that covers gums and teeth is a protective item that can be helpful for not only teeth defense, but also your lips and arches. Unfortunately, the world of sports had to endure numerous injuries before the invention of the mouthguard in 1892. Boxing was the first sport to try out the brainchild of Dr. Woolf Krause.



While some of the devilish details are unclear, we believe that Dr. Krause fashioned the first mouthguard for boxers with a natural resin material that covered the front teeth.  Woolf’s son, Phillip, is credited with making the first reusable mouthguard. It debuted in the 1921 championship fight. Participants were Ted “Kid” Lewis and Jack Britton. Kid Lewis had gone to school with Phillip. Mr. Britton’s manager claimed the mouthpiece was illegal and that Kid was not allowed to wear it for the full fight. Other names for the device include mouth protector or piece, gumguard or shield, bite splint or plane, night guard or occlusal splint.

There are at least a half-dozen dentists who claim to have invented a mouthguard; however, it is Dr. Rodney O. Lilyquist, who was formally acknowledged. In 1948, the American Dental Association printed the facts about how to make and fit a guard made from transparent acrylic resin. This allowed athletics to speak comfortably and understandably while wearing the guard. Dr. Lilyquist became known as the “father of the modern mouthguard for athletes.”  And the rest is history.

It wasn’t until 1960 when the American Dental Association (ADA) began to suggest the use of mouthguards, made with latex, become part of all contact sports. It only took two years for the guard to become a requirement for all high school football players in America and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) made guards mandatory for college football in 1973.  Mouth related injuries significantly decreased. Today, guards are a requirement for ice/field hockey and lacrosse in the NCAA. The ADA recommends mouthguards in nearly 30 contact sports including acrobatics, gymnastics, inline skating, soccer, skydiving, wrestling, volleyball, rugby, and martial arts, to name a few.


Failing to wear a mouth guard while playing contact sports can be devastating to your mouth and your health. According to the ADA, athletes who do not wear guards are 60 times more inclined to injury than those who wear a guard. Let’s recap the benefits of wearing a mouthguard. By the way, the significance of wearing a guard cannot be stressed enough!

  • A hit to your face can rattle your brain, fracture teeth, fracture your jaw, or lead to a concussion. A mouthpiece also helps to protect you from such injury.
  • Too many concussions can create permanent damage to your brain, and mouth guards can help prevent concussions, or at least help to minimize the adverse impacts.
    • Mouthguards act as shock absorbers; they also make your neck and head more stable and limit movement is you take a direct hit in or near your jaw.
    • The thickness of your guard is another factor that impacts the degree of protection.
    • While Mr. Whipple is squeezing the Charmin, squeeze your mouthpiece and feel the cushion. It’s the soft tissue protection for your tongue, lips and checks linings.
  • Although the habit of clenching or grinding teeth isn’t limited to athletes, a mouthguard can help reduce the effects of that bad habit.
  • A guard protects against:
  • Breaking or chipping teeth
  • Damaging crowns, bridgework, or other dental efforts
  • Damaging roots
  • Fractured jaws
  • Tongue injuries
  • Injuries of your cheeks and lips

If you’re undecided about which guard to wear or how it should fit, please speak with your dentist for counsel.

Mouthguard Care Tips

There are several things recommended for keeping your guard clean. After all, it’s going in your mouth, and you want to be sure it’s safe.  Being diligent about the care pf your guard should be part of your daily routine.

  • After wearing, rinse your mouth guard in warm water to remove any plaque or debris.
  • Without using toothpaste, which can be abrasive, brush your mouthguard and place it on a clean surface to dry. You can use your regular toothbrush if you like.
  • Allow about 30 minutes for drying. Storing it too soon after washing encourages bacteria growth.
  • Place the dry mouthguard in a case and store it outside of the bathroom. The humidity in a bath increases the chances of the guard warping.


  • That nicely covers your daily routine; however, you should follow a deep cleaning regiment weekly. This can be accomplished by placing the guard in a glass of water and use an over the counter denture cleanser put in the glass. Let the cleaner fully dissolve. Here are some other suggestions:
    • Another way to deep clean is by using vinegar in a glass of water and let your guard soak for no less than 30 minutes. Next, rinse your guard and place it in a glass of hydrogen peroxide for a minimum of 30 minutes. Let your guard dry and secure it in the case.
    • A third option is to use a cap full of mouthwash in a glass. After placing your guard in the glass, fill it with water until the guard is fully submerged. Let the guard rest in the glass for about 30 minutes, dry and place in the case.


    Never soak your guard for more than one hour because it may be damaging to the material. If you don’t keep your case clean, then cleaning your guard is a waste of time. Hand wash the case every few days with dishwashing fluid, allow it to thoroughly dry before use.  Dishwasher water is typically too hot for your case and replacing it every six to 12 months is the recommendation.

    Whether you’re a youngster or an oldster or anyone in between, let’s keep those smiles as beautiful as they are today and wear a mouthguard during practice and play in all of your contact sports.


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The Importance of Mouthguards in Sports

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