Hockey, football, rugby, soccer, boxing... what do all these sports have in common? They are all contact, active sports. They also involve activities and violence that could knock your teeth out! In the middle of the game, all it takes is one tackle, a player running into you or a sock to the jaw and your teeth gnash and grind into your gums, causing serious injury to your mouth.
A painful and expensive trip to the dentist follows and you can end up losing that picture-perfect smile. Another teeth-knocking scenario is if you suffer from bruxism. This sleep condition causes you to unknowingly grind your teeth continuously, even while you are asleep. Such grinding activity is definitely not good for your teeth.
So in such situations, a mouthguard or gumshield is required to protect your teeth, lips and gums from harm. A mouthguard acts as an acrylic or plastic shield between your upper and lower teeth, to prevent friction between the two. Some mouthguards are one-size-fits-all, some are custom-fit and some are molded in your mouth, after they are boiled. Below is some advice on what to do before boiling a mouthguard followed by the correct procedure on how to boil one.
Before You Boil a Plastic Mouthguard
The following are some points to follow before boiling your mouthguard:
- Make sure you buy a boil-and-bite mouthguard. This type of mouthguard is specially designed for adapting to your mouth's size and teeth structure by the process of molding.
- Buy the right size of mouthguard. Standard sizes include kid or junior, young and adult. A mouthguard has to sit properly in your mouth for a prolonged period of time, as well as protect your mouth from contact, so it needs to be the right fit and size.
- A mouthguard should stay in your mouth without you clenching your teeth all the time. It should fit firmly behind your upper teeth and cover them in the front.
- Read the manufacturer's instructions first. How long to boil a mouthguard and any additional steps are mentioned in the literature accompanying the mouthguard.
- Use clean utensils and a clean surface for boiling the mouthguard. Any germs and dirt from such surroundings, will pass from the mouthguard to your mouth and your health will be at risk.
- Brush your teeth and gargle before boiling and fitting the mouthguard in your mouth.
- Make sure the water is at boiling temperature. If the water is not hot enough, the plastic of the mouthguard will not soften and hence will not mold properly to your mouth's shape.
How to Boil a Mouthguard
- Use a medium-sized pot or saucepan and fill water in it, such that the mouthguard will be completely submerged.
- Boil the water. Fill another bowl with the same amount of water but the water should be cold or at room temperature.
- Use tongs to gently place the mouthguard in the boiling water. The amount of time may vary depending on the brand or the make but generally the mouthguard should be kept for 30 secs, at the maximum 1 minute in the boiling water. The mouthguard should be completely submerged under water.
- Do not leave the mouthguard for too long in the boiling water, as the plastic will melt and then, will not harden in your mouth.
- Remove the mouthguard using tongs. Do not put the hot mouthguard in your mouth! Instead immerse it in the bowl of cold water for 5 seconds.
- Once the mouthguard is cool enough, line it with your central upper teeth (do this in front of a mirror) and place it firmly under your upper teeth. Use your tongue and fingers to arrange it properly.
- Bite down hard on the guard, clenching your teeth and gums for at least 45 seconds. Then suck hard on the mouthguard to make it fit well.
- Remove the mouthguard from your teeth and run it under some tap water for 30 seconds. Leave it for a few minutes to harden. Try it in your mouth once again to see if it fits well.
- If the mouthguard does not fit right in your mouth, you can try reboiling it and then remolding it in your mouth. Most mouthguards are malleable enough to reform. But if you bite straight through the mouthguard or if the plastic starts to melt and stick to your teeth, you need to get a new one.
Boil-and-bite mouthguards or gumshields are less expensive as compared to custom-fitted mouthguards but they wear out faster and need to be replaced once a year. If you find the fit of a plastic mouthguard uncomfortable, no matter how much you boil and fit it, remember a set of teeth are like a person's fingerprints, each set is unique. So it may be easier on your mouth to opt for a custom-fit mouthguard from a dentist, to cater to your dental structure.