Are Mouthguards Really Necessary For Heavy Contact Sports?

Are helmets really necessary for when riding a motorcycle?

If you really wanted to, you could argue they aren’t because technically, you don’t need a helmet to be able to ride a motorcycle.

But it is necessary to protect your head and of course, it’s the law.

Wearing a mouthguard may not be necessary when playing heavy contact sports, but it is necessary if you want to protect your teeth.

Most contact sports carry a high risk of accidental collision, resulting in some serious dental injuries, including broken jaws, cracked or chipped teeth, even teeth getting knocked-out. 

For this reason, wearing a mouthguard becomes necessary to minimize risk and help protect your teeth in the event of an accidental collision.

How does a mouthguard help?

Think of a mouthguard as a shock absorber. Think of the suspension on your car absorbs impact whenever you go over a speed bump. Now imagine going over that bump without springs, safe to say you probably won’t make it home.

Mouthguards have been designed to absorb impact and act as a buffer in between your teeth to lessen the force that is applied to your jaw, teeth and skull in a collision. 

Without a mouthguard, any sudden impact or direct force to the lower part of your face can travel through your jaw, teeth and upper part of your skull. Such force can result in serious dental injuries, including a fractured jaw, concussions, and loss of tooth.

Which mouthguard do I need for sports?

There are two main types of mouthguards used in sports:


A dentist will take an impression of your teeth and mouth to create a mouthguard specifically for the structure of your teeth and mouth. Custom-made mouthguards provide a much better fit than a boil and bite mouthguard, does not affect speech and allows for normal breathing, which is especially important in sports.

Boil and bite (over-the-counter)

Over-the-counter mouthguards are self-fitted and require being immersed in hot water to soften it up before biting down on it for it to take on the shape of your mouth. They are not as comfortable and precise as a custom-made mouthguard but can still provide adequate protection in comparison to no mouthguard at all.

What sports require a mouthguard?

A study found that 13-39% of all dental injuries are sports related, with some research showing basketball having the highest injury rate. It concluded that athletes have a 10% chance of receiving an orofacial injury every season of play, and a 33-56% chance of receiving an orofacial injury during their entire playing career. These injuries can include crown and root fractures, tooth extrusion/intrusion, and loss of tooth.

It’s important to be wearing a mouthguard when participating in the following sports:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Field hockey
  • Skateboarding / rollerblading
  • BMX / cycling
  • Cricket
  • MMA
  • Baseball / softball
  • Boxing

What to do if you have suffered a dental injury

In the event of a sports related dental injury, what you do immediately could be the difference in saving or losing a tooth, depending on the severity of the injury.

Knocked-out tooth

If a tooth is knocked out, retrieve the tooth immediately, give it a quick rinse in water making sure not to scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. Ensure the tooth is facing the correct way and attempt to reinsert into the socket, do not force it. If you are not able to reinsert the tooth, put it into a small container of milk and go straight to your nearest dentist. 

Chipped, broken or cracked teeth

If you’ve chipped or broken a tooth, try and gather any pieces and give them a quick rinse in warm water. Also rinse your mouth using warm water with a pinch of salt. Apply a piece of gauze to the affected area if there’s any bleeding. Apply a cold pack to the outside of the mouth, cheek, or lip near the injury to keep the swelling down and relieve any pain. Seek your dentist as soon as possible.

Partially dislodged tooth

See your nearest dentist immediately. While on the way, to relieve any pain, apply a cold pack to the affected area, consider over-the-counter pain relief medication if needed.