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Choosing a mouthguard your young athlete will actually wear

When fit matters, ‘off the shelf’ may not be the best solution
Dentist Dr. Mike Dolynchuk, owner of Dolynchuk Dental in Red Deer and Caroline Dental in Caroline, Alberta. submitted

If you have children playing sports – or you’re a rec league player yourself – you may think of a mouthguard as a way to prevent a cracked or chipped tooth. And while that’s certainly one benefit, a properly fitted mouthguard actually serves a variety of purposes, explains Dr. Michael Dolynchuk, dentist and owner of Dolynchuk Dental Center in Red Deer.

A mouthguard can certainly help prevent dental injuries where something may come into contact with teeth, causing them to break, chip or crack. However, because a mouthguard also acts as a cushion, it offers additional protection against a broken jaw, neck injury and concussion.

Much like wearing a helmet while riding your bike, wearing a mouthguard is a safety habit that with regular use becomes second nature.

And just like choosing the right helmet, it’s also important to choose the right mouthguard. Beyond choosing a quality product, it’s also important to consider comfort: “The more comfortable the mouthguard, the better chance your child will wear it,” Dr. Dolynchuk says.

Stock mouthguards, for example, are inexpensive and come ready to wear but can be bulky. Next in line, the “boil-and-bite mouthguards,” are available at many sporting goods stores and once softened in warm or hot water, are then moulded to the shape of your mouth. While these can offer a better fit than the stock variety, they can still feel bulky and awkward.

A custom-fitted mouthguard, made for you by your dentist, is a little more expensive and takes a little more time, but offers a better fit. “Since your mouthguard will be built specifically for your mouth, it will be more comfortable than an ‘off-the-shelf’ option,” Dr. Dolynchuk says.

How to care for your mouthguard

Of course, even the best-fitting mouthguard needs to be cared for properly – and not tossed to the bottom of your hockey bag after the game!

Avoid chewing on it, which can affect its effectiveness, and rinse before and after each use. Regular cleaning with your toothbrush and toothpaste, just like how you brush your teeth, can help remove plaque and bacteria that transfers from your mouth. Store and carry your mouthguard in a rigid, perforated container that protects it while allowing air flow, making sure to let the mouthguard dry completely before closing the container.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment for your mouthguard, visit Dolynchuk Dental at 403-309 2167 or visit online at You’ll find them at 6845 66 St., in Red Deer’s new QEII Wellness Centre.