What is an athletic mouth guard?
Athletic mouth guards are devices worn by athletes to protect the teeth from damage in the event of sudden blows to the face and head. For anyone who participates in sports that involve heavy contact, such as balls, flying equipment and bodily contact, mouth guard use is pivotal in preventing dental injuries. According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury sustained when participating in sports. The organization contends that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouth guard.
What are the primary types of athletic mouth guards?
Athletic mouth guards fall into three primary groups that athletes can consider before participating in sports to prevent dental injuries:
Custom Made Mouth Guards
These mouth guards are professionally-made at a dentist's office by making an impression of the teeth and molding the mouth guard around the jaw profile. While this is the most expensive option, this is the variant that is most preferred by professional athletes to provide the best possible fit during physical activity.
Boil and Bite Mouth Guards
This is the most common type of mouth guard that is designed to be boiled in water to soften the rubber material and then placed in the wearer's mouth to form a mold of his/her teeth. In many ways, this is the safest, most cost-effective option for families who are seeking out extra protection for young athletes.
Stock Mouth Guards
A stock mouth guard is a device that is the same shape as other athletic mouth guards, but cannot be molded to suit the wearer's teeth. While this is certainly better than not wearing a mouth guard, these devices can often fit poorly and can be uncomfortable for the wearer.
Why aren't athletic mouth guards eligible for reimbursement?
While athletic mouth guards are certainly essential in preventing dental injuries while participating in sports, the IRS considers these products to be "dual purpose." This term refers to expenses that are sometimes considered cosmetic or essential to one's "general health," that may also serve a medical purpose. Unfortunately, this disqualifies it from reimbursement with consumer-directed healthcare accounts.