Custom vs. Over-the-Counter Mouthguards: Which Is Best?

When it comes to protecting your teeth during sports activities, mouthguards play a crucial role. They act as a barrier between your teeth and potential impact, reducing the risk of dental injuries such as chips, fractures, and even tooth loss. However, choosing the right mouthguard can be challenging, as there are various options available in the market. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of custom and over-the-counter mouthguards to help you make an informed decision.

Custom Mouthguards: Tailored Protection

Custom mouthguards, as the name suggests, are designed specifically for your mouth. These mouthguards are fabricated by dental professionals who take impressions of your teeth and gums. These impressions are then used to create a mouthguard that fits your mouth perfectly, offering the highest level of protection and comfort.

Advantages of Custom Mouthguards:

1. Optimal Fit and Comfort

One of the biggest advantages of custom mouthguards is their superior fit. Since they are tailored to your unique dental structure, they provide a snug and secure fit. This ensures that the mouthguard stays in place during sports activities, maximizing its protective capabilities. The custom fit also enhances comfort, making it easier to breathe, speak, and focus on your game.

2. Enhanced Protection

Custom mouthguards are designed to offer optimal protection for your teeth, gums, and jaw. Their precise fit and superior materials provide a high level of shock absorption, helping to mitigate the impact forces that can lead to dental injuries. With a custom mouthguard, you can have peace of mind knowing that your teeth are well-protected, regardless of the intensity of the sport you participate in.

3. Durability and Longevity

Unlike over-the-counter mouthguards that may wear out quickly, custom mouthguards are made from durable materials that are built to last. This means they can withstand the demands of regular use and maintain their protective qualities over time. Though initially pricier, the durability of custom mouthguards makes them a cost-effective choice in the long run.

Over-the-Counter Mouthguards: Convenient and Affordable

Over-the-counter mouthguards are readily available in most sports stores and pharmacies. These mouthguards come in various sizes and are typically made from a thermoplastic material that can be adapted to fit your teeth using a boil-and-bite method. While they offer some level of protection, over-the-counter mouthguards have certain limitations to consider.

Advantages of Over-the-Counter Mouthguards:

1. Affordability

Over-the-counter mouthguards are generally more affordable compared to their custom counterparts. This makes them an accessible option for individuals who are looking for budget-friendly protection. However, it is important to understand that lower cost often translates to a compromise in fit and protection.

2. Immediate Availability

If you need a mouthguard urgently and cannot wait for a custom-fitted one to be produced, over-the-counter mouthguards offer immediate availability. You can find them in stores near you without the need for scheduling dental appointments or waiting for delivery.

3. Decent Protection for Mild Activities

For individuals engaging in low-impact or non-contact sports, over-the-counter mouthguards may provide adequate protection. However, they are generally less effective in high-intensity sports or those involving physical contact. Their standard sizing and lack of customization can compromise the level of protection they offer, leaving your teeth more vulnerable to injury.

Making the Decision

When it comes to deciding between a custom mouthguard and an over-the-counter option, it is crucial to consider the nature of your sports activities and the level of protection you require. If you engage in high-impact sports or contact sports, investing in a custom mouthguard is recommended for optimal protection. The perfect fit, customized design, and enhanced durability of custom mouthguards make them the superior choice for athletes serious about protecting their teeth.

On the other hand, if you participate in low-impact sports or have a limited budget, an over-the-counter mouthguard can provide some level of protection. To maximize its effectiveness, follow the instructions carefully for the boil-and-bite adaptation method.


Choosing the right mouthguard is essential for safeguarding your dental health during sports activities. Custom mouthguards offer unmatched fit, comfort, and protection, making them the top choice for athletes involved in high-intensity or contact sports. While over-the-counter mouthguards are more budget-friendly and convenient, they may not provide the same level of protection due to their standard sizing and lack of customization. Ultimately, the decision between custom and over-the-counter mouthguards depends on your individual needs and the level of protection you seek.