Mouth guards may seem like a basic piece of technology that hasn’t changed much, but mouth guards are actually getting better—and more diverse.
There are actually two main purposes for mouth guards to serve, though both are intended to prevent damage to your teeth and jaw. First, sports-related mouth guards are designed to help absorb impact, and prevent injuries resulting from collisions and unexpected movements. Second, sleep-focused mouth guards are designed to prevent teeth grinding during the night, which can cause significant damage to your teeth.
The technologies responsible for making both these types of mouth guards is evolving, and along similar paths.
How Mouth Guards Are Changing
So in what ways are mouth guards actually changing?
- Better protection. Mouth guards are made to protect the teeth and jaw from injury, so naturally, mouth guard manufacturers want to produce products capable of even better protection. There are a couple of ways this can be improved. For example, you can invest in better, higher-tech materials capable of absorbing more impact. In the past, several materials have been used, including poly (vinyl acetate-ethylene) copolymer clear thermoplastic, polyurethane, and laminated thermoplastic. These are all significant improvements over the materials of yesteryear, but laminated thermoplastic seems to be the best. Mouth guards can also be designed to provide better protection based on how they’re designed to fit. Right now, there are “standard” mouth guards made for a one-size-fits-all approach, boil-and-bite mouth guards, which allow some degree of flexibility, and custom-fitted mouth guards designed specifically for one individual.
- Weight and flexibility. Improvements are also being made to the weight and flexibility of mouth guards. Most people don’t like the feeling of having something heavy and bulky in their mouths, especially when they’re trying to talk, or when they’re sleeping. This leads to lower rates of mouth guard use, and greater discomfort during use. That’s why some manufacturers are working on developing ultra-light mouth guards, which provide most of the same protection of their bulkier counterparts, but in a lightweight and flexible form.
- Expense. Basic mouth guards aren’t very expensive; you can pick up a standard model at a sporting goods store for just a few dollars. Still, manufacturers want to make the best mouth guards they can for the lowest possible price, reducing the price consumers pay and simultaneously boosting profits. Accordingly, manufacturers are researching better materials, which cost less to procure and produce, as well as more sophisticated production practices, which may require less equipment, or may be capable of producing larger runs without much additional expense.
Can There Be an Ultimate Mouth Guard?
With the combination of these three technologies, could we one day see an “ultimate” mouth guard that’s cheap to produce, light and flexible, with best-in-class protection?
The answer is probably no. Instead of all paths converging on one, singularly advanced mouth guard, the paths will likely branch into many diverse types of mouth guards. We’re already seeing the beginnings of that evolutionary pattern today, with some models focusing on raw protection and others focusing on flexibility. Adding to that complexity will be the greater availability and demand for individually-fitted mouth guards, which will be even more comfortable and capable of better protection.
If you play any sports or grind your teeth during the night, you need to have a mouth guard to protect you. And thankfully, the technology is sufficiently advanced to provide that protection.
The only thing left to decide is what type of mouth guard you want to buy.