Picture a hockey player. Along with the hockey stick, shoulder pads, and skates, are there two holes where the front teeth used to be?

Sometimes, it may seem like losing a tooth is a natural part of playing sports. But it doesn't have to be this way. Your teeth need protecting—regardless of the sport or activity.

Guard Against Injury to Your Mouth

The best way to protect your teeth while playing sports is to wear a mouth guard. According to the American Dental Association, a mouth guard can help prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face, or jaw.

What to look for in a mouth guard:

  • Flexibility
  • Tear-resistant
  • Comfortable fit
  • Proper fit
  • No restriction on speech or breathing

Types of Mouth Guards

  • Ready-made—Also called stock-mouth protectors, these can be purchased at most sporting goods stores and are preformed and ready to wear. They are the least expensive, but also the least effective.
  • Mouth-formed —Also called boil-and-bite mouth protectors, this type can be purchased at most sporting goods stores and may fit better than the ready-made option. The protector is softened in hot water, then inserted into the mouth and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth.
  • Custom-made—This type is made by your dentist for you personally. It is more expensive than the other two types, but because it is customized, it usually has the best fit.

There is some variation in mouth guards, so choose carefully. Also, you may want to discuss your options with your dentist.