In a Nutshell:

  • Most mouthguards are made from plastic, and many brands wouldn’t even tell me what types of plastic are used!

  • It’s common for mouthguards to contain toxic chemicals like BPA, phthalates, PFAS, and MMA.

  • If you need a custom-fit mouth guard, I’ve included some of the “least bad” brands below, including Sentinel Mouthguards (they have both sports and nighttime guards) and Teeth Night Guard.
    • I recommend NOT using any of the microwavable or bite-and-boil mouthguards if you can avoid it. Instead, choose one where you create an impression and then send it to the company for them to make your custom-fit mouth guard.

  • Some of these options are more suited for use as night guards. If you need a sport mouth guard for athletics, I would recommend checking with your coach to see if the mouth guard you choose will be sufficient for the sport.

As a soccer and lacrosse mom, I immersed countless mouthguards into just-boiled water for my kids. That scalding water softened the material enough so that when they bit into it, the mouthpiece instantly molded to fit their teeth, offering a layer of protection that a loose-fitting mouthpiece could not.

But as a mom concerned about exposing my children to harmful ingredients, I always had serious misgivings. The alternative (saying no to the sport altogether) would result in heartbreak that they’d never forgive me for. So I acquiesced.

As a parent, it was an extremely tough decision.

To make matters worse, my son also needed a retainer (a small, custom-made dental appliance) once his braces came off. A dental necessity trumped any doubts I harbored about the potential toxicity of the device’s material. 

I could not win this one.

In this article, I take a deep dive into the world of sports mouthguards and dental night guards, and I report on my investigations into several brands of protective mouth gear.

I reached out to a lot of brands for this piece, but sadly, I received few definitive answers to my questions. The brands I include here came the closest to responding with somewhat clarifying information.

In spite of the difficulty in obtaining reliable information, I identified two brands of mouthguards that seem safer than many (although one is still in development). 

I’m hoping to save you a lot of time researching mouthguards for yourself and your family, so see my list of non-toxic and the least bad mouthguards below.

This post contains some affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. (Not all of them are affiliate links, though!) As always, we only make recommendations that are genuine. Featured image credit: Sentinel Mouthguards.

What are mouthguards even made of?

The earliest known mouthguards (pre-20th century) were made of wood. As you can guess, they weren’t very effective at absorbing frontal impacts.

Since the 1960s, according to the American Dental Association, most “boil and bite” mouthguards have been made of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). Roughly 90% of all athletic mouthguards worn today are boil and bite.

Fitted and formed by a dentist, custom-made mouthguards may be made of:

  • Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA, sometimes with polyurethane added)
  • Polyolefin (such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), or polybutylene (PB))
  • Polystyrene-polyolefin copolymer (a mix of two types of plastic)

All of the above-mentioned chemicals are derived from fossil fuels and can be hazardous to health in one way or another, potentially becoming more toxic when heated. Also, there is the chance that harmful contaminants are present on or in the final product, a risk that everything made of plastic carries.

The 2015 Position Statement of the American College of Prostodontists gives more detail on mouthguard materials and construction. According to this Statement, mouthguards may have a single or double layer. Currently, the most common materials are all plastic:

  • EVA copolymer (i.e., polyurethane may be included)
  • Soft acrylic resin
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polyvinyl acetate-polyethylene (pEVA) elastomers

Some mouthguards have an outer hard layer of styrolbutadiene and a soft inner layer of ethylene copolymer and vinyl acetate. 

Considering both of these legitimate sources of information published by dental organizations, I’m especially concerned about PVC and polystyrene compounds in oral devices because of how hazardous these plastics are. Both of them are made with other chemicals (vinyl chloride and styrene) that are carcinogenic.

Contamination of these toxic chemicals is known to occur. For example, styrene can leach into food or beverages from polystyrene containers. Similarly, hard PVC plastics can chip off during normal wear and tear, possibly leading to ingestion of residual vinyl chloride. 

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of “wear and tear” that might occur when it comes to mouthguards. Although my children did not actively chew on their mouthguards, many of their friends certainly did. And of course, many folks wear a mouthguard at nighttime because they grind their teeth. 

The adverse health outcomes from microplastic ingestion are currently a hot topic of research, but preliminary results are not good.

My reservations about multi-layered (laminated) mouthguards were confirmed in a 2020 article in the journal Polymers which states that multi-laminated mouthguards are prone to delamination (breakdown) over time and with regular use. 

No further explanation was provided about what that delamination looks like, but it likely involves the removal (displacement) of plastic components from the protective piece into the environment, including into your mouth if you happen to be wearing it at the time when a traumatic hit occurs on the field or if you’re nibbling on it.

Do mouthguards or dental Guards contain BPA?

Most mouthguard companies frequently state that none of their products contain BPA. Only a few, however, also reveal that chemicals used in place of BPA—such as BPS—are also absent from their products. I list that information below.

Since BPA alternatives are known to be as toxic as BPA (if not more), it’s a good idea to follow up with the manufacturer of any mouth gear you’re interested in purchasing to find out.

There could be phthalates in your mouthguard, too.

One of the leading brands of dental guards stated on their website that dialkyl ortho-phthalate (o-DAPS) may be used in the manufacturing of some hard acrylic night guards to soften them. I was surprised to read this because phthalates aren’t typically in rigid plastics like acrylic.

Knowing that companies aren’t required to list all the chemicals used to make their products, I wonder how non-toxic most mouthguards really are.

In the United States, there are only a handful of phthalates that are restricted in certain children’s products. Sadly, sports or dental mouthguards are not included. In 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would not ban them from food packaging, so a ban in consumer products is unlikely for now. This is unfortunate because phthalate exposure is linked to cancer and reproductive harm.

MMA, a banned toxic chemical, could also be lurking in your mouthguard.

Methyl methacrylate (MMA) is a lab-made chemical derived from fossil fuels. You may have heard of its use in artificial fingernail treatments. 

Because of numerous reports to the FDA of negative health outcomes from MMA, including asthma, it was banned in nail products in 1974. 

Unfortunately, MMA is not banned in mouthguards.

If you’ve been shopping around for a non-toxic night guard, you may have seen a few marketed as “MMA-free.” If you had inferred from this that MMA was once used to make night guards but is not any longer, you’d be semi-correct. 

While it is true that EVA and acrylic are the most common ingredients in dental guards, MMA could still be used to make them.

I identified one night guard maker, JS Dental Labs, that admitted that MMA could be in dental guards on occasion, but “almost never” is. They write that in cases where acrylic would not be appropriate because it is too hard, a type of acrylic material such as MMA, when liquefied, would be suitable to bond with polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG), a plastic used as an alternative to EVA in mouthguards. 

JS Dental Labs says on their website: “Although our night guard materials don’t contain it, there are cases where we can bond methyl methacrylate on top of our material to build extra thickness.”

In other words, MMA could serve as a night guard coating.

I definitely would not want MMA in my mouthguard, whether as a surface coating or as a material. If you’re ever in doubt about whether your night guard contains MMA, don’t be afraid to reach out to the brand and ask.

Fortunately, there are natural alternatives to fossil fuel-based ingredients in a dental guard (see below).

What about PFAS in athletic or night mouthguards?

To the best of my knowledge, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are not intentionally added to mouthguards like they are in some brands of dental floss and dental tape

It wouldn’t really make sense in this context since you want your mouthguard to stay in place, not move around (PFAS are used for lubrication).

However, as I’m seeing time and time again, PFAS are turning up literally everywhere. So, I wasn’t surprised to find a 2024 peer-reviewed article documenting PFAS in mouthguards (complete text of non-peer-reviewed preprint here).   

That article used two unnamed night guards from Walmart. Investigators measured PFOS—one of only two PFAS banned from production in the U.S. due to its associated health harms including cancer and congenital birth defects and recently designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as hazardous—at 7.25-16.45 ng/product or 1.2-2.3 ng/g. 

The researchers concluded that this amount did not represent a significant health threat, but it appears that the authors went to press before the EPA declared its mandatory PFAS drinking water standard in April 2024 of 4 ppt (parts per trillion). Since 1 ppt = 0.001 ng/g, 4 ppt = 0.004 ng/g. 

In other words, the PFAS levels found in a single mouthguard were 3-4 orders of magnitude greater than the EPA’s maximum allowable amount in drinking water. 

Because residual PFAS could be found in a mouthguard, and they are infamous for migrating in water (saliva), I unfortunately cannot recommend the use of any plastic mouthguard.

Okay, so what about silicone mouthguards or night guards?

Silicone is a better option than your conventional plastics, especially considering that it doesn’t start to break down until it reaches temperatures above ~350-400℉ (which is well above the boiling point of water). So, protective mouthguards made of uncoated, high quality, 100% food-grade silicone should not leach chemicals into your body.

That said, it’s pretty difficult to find a silicone night guard. So far, I’ve only found one (Goat Boxing, listed below), but I have yet to figure out if it’s actually made from high-grade, 100% silicone (I’m still waiting to hear back from them!). Plus, the shipping costs for it are pretty high.

It also might be worth noting that, believe it or not, silicone is a type of plastic. It’s synthetic (not natural), and coming out of a lab, it technically can carry the same risk of possessing unreacted starting materials or other residual contaminants as all plastics carry. It’s also not biodegradable at the end of its life.

But again, if you’re choosing between conventional plastic and silicone, I would still choose silicone as the better option.

I looked for the best, safest non-toxic mouthguards and night guards… Here’s what I found

During the brand investigations for this article, I found many mouth protective devices labeled as “BPA-free” and “phthalate-free.” 

To me, this is the absolute bare minimum assurance that the mouthpiece could be safe. It’s definitely better than nothing, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your mouth guard is truly non-toxic.

The majority of company reps identified the type of plastic used to manufacture the mouthguard or night guard, but a few said they would not, citing proprietary reasons. (It’s usually a red flag when companies cite “proprietary” information.)

Based on the thoroughness of their response, or willingness to escalate my questions to quality assurance departments to answer my questions if they could not, I chose a few brands listed below that I’d recommend as the least worst.

The only 100% all-natural dental night guard I could find may be sufficient for those with moderate teeth grinding issues, but may not be adequate for people with more serious dental issues. 

I recommend that you try it and see before investing in a plastic (or silicone) night guard, let alone a custom-made one that could cost several hundred dollars.  

1. Answers by Nature (100% natural option, but may take some getting used to)

non-toxic sports mouthguard Answers by Nature
  • Made of undyed hemp and cotton, the majority of online reviews state that this product helps reduce or eliminate the negative effects of nighttime teeth grinding.
  • Available in several varieties (original, double original, thick, double thick, and soft)
  • Adjustable (you can trim it to fit your mouth)
  • Imprints your teeth naturally
  • Plastic-free.
  • Definitely not suitable for athletics

2. Natural Mouth Guard (100% natural, but more in the form of a standard mouthguard)

non-toxic sports mouthguard Natural Mouth Guard
  • Made of undyed hemp and cotton
  • It may not be suitable on athletic fields—that’s for your coach to decide—but it may work well for night time wear.
  • Available in 3 sizes (child, adult small, and adult large)
  • Lasts about 12 months
  • You do have to contact them to make a purchase

3. Natural Mouthguards (in development; not available for purchase yet)

  • According to their website, this company is planning to offer mouthguards made of 100% natural rubber.
  • When I inquired via email about an expected date for their product to become available, I received this automatic reply: “We set up this automated responder while we’re heads down developing this product. To receive updates on our progress, enter your email address through the website.” 

3. Goat Boxing (silicone; suitable for some sports)

non toxic sports mouth guard Goat Boxing
  • Hailing from the Netherlands, this is the only silicone mouthguard I’ve seen. I’ve reached out to the company for more information, and will update this entry when I hear back.
  • It’s made for boxing, so should be suitable for at least some types of athletics.
  • You will have to pay more shipping if you’re ordering outside of the Netherlands.

4. Sentinel Mouthguards (least bad option for a more “conventional” night guard AND sports mouth guard)

  • When I asked by email what their mouthguards were made of, a customer service rep wrote: “Our soft guards are only made of EVA. [They] are not only BPA-free, they are not manufactured with bisphenol-S (BPS) or any other bisphenol compounds. In addition, our products do not contain any of the following: methyl methacrylate (MMA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl, phthalates, formamide, toluamide, silicone, or latex.”
  • They also have a variety of options, like for “heavy teeth grinding,” so this might be a good option if you’ve tried one of the 100% natural options and found that they didn’t work for you.
  • They also have an athletic mouth guard option!

5. Teeth Night Guard (another okay option for a conventional night guard)

non-toxic sports mouthguard Teeth Night Guard
  • A customer service rep told me by email that their night guards are made of both EVA and acrylic. I followed up by asking if both materials were used in the same device or if certain products were made of only one or the other. 
  • Within a day, I received their reply: “The soft guards and the medium firmness guards are made only with EVA. The hard guards are made only with acrylic.”  
  • They also state that all of their night guards are free from BPA, phthalates, and latex.

Avoid these sports mouthguards and dental night guards

When researching protective mouth gear for this article, I found several products costing only a few dollars each. I would definitely avoid them. The quality is likely poor meaning the risk of residual chemical contamination would be greater.

One company I’d be wary of is Triad Athletes. They sell a popular sports mouthguard that they describe as the first ever microwaveable device. This could sound appealing, but may not be safe. The material it’s made of goes unstated and it’s very difficult to find their contact information.

The instructions say to “microwave on high for 30 seconds.” Because wattages vary from appliance to appliance, there’s no way to know what temperature the mouthpiece would be exposed to. The highest-wattage microwaves can get over 600℉, which is close to the temperature at which EVA (the most likely material) begins to degrade. 

Airwaav and Game On Mouthguard are other companies that recommend microwaving the mouthpiece. Interestingly, they have the same address even though one of the products is marketed as a mouthguard for the lower teeth for use during exercise workouts and only a few sports, while the other is for all sports. 

They did not state the material used but at least had an email address. My email to Game On was blocked for no apparent reason. Airwaav replied but said their material, Vistamaxx, was the same as that used in Game On products. 

Vistamaxx is a branded material, so that doesn’t really tell you anything about what the material actually is (and the rep did not say). When I asked again, the rep responded by saying: “Vistamaxx performance polymers are semi-crystalline copolymers with tunable amorphous content and are compatible with other polyolefinic materials.” 

Finding this vague, I asked yet again, specifically if their mouthpieces were made of EVA or acrylic. Here’s their reply: “It is not EVA or acrylic. Vistamaxx is the name of the actual material. By technical definition it is a polyolefin.”

As you can see, after several back and forths, I still have almost no information about what these mouthguards are actually made of, so I can’t recommend them.

Sisu’s boil-and-bite mouthguards come highly recommended by online reviewers. The company website has an informative FAQ page, but the material used to make the mouthguard is not stated. 

I have reached out for this and received this response: “The exact material and the method of manufacturing is proprietary, so I am unable to share a complete materials list.” For this reason, I cannot recommend Sisu mouthguards. 

If you’re looking for a silicone dental night guard, you can skip right past Primal Organics. Although it appears in Google searches for night guards, and has an enticing name for folks into non-toxic living, this company told me that their dental device is not actually a stand-alone night guard. It’s made to be used with their teeth whitening powder.

HOT TIP: If possible, you’ll want to avoid a microwaveable or boil-and-bite mouthguard. If ordering a custom-fit mouthguard, you’ll want to choose one where you take an impression and send it in to the company, where they then create your mouth guard using that. Remember: heat increases chemical leaching.

How to minimize chemical leaching into your mouth from a mouthguard or night guard

If you must purchase the most popular style of mouthguard (EVA) that requires scalding water immersion for molding, limit the time it spends in your or your child’s mouth during mold formation. 

Then immediately rinse out your mouth (or ask your child to rinse out their mouth) with room temperature water in case there are leached chemicals that have not yet been absorbed. Be sure your child has no mouth sores or periodontal disease before taking the mold, as toxic chemicals will likely be more easily absorbed through those.   

Do not clean your mouthguard with boiling water because it could dislodge chemical additives, residual contaminants, or coatings, making it more likely that they enter your mouth later. A quick wipedown with mild soap and tepid water followed by a cold water rinse will reduce the chance of causing any chemicals to dislodge. Then air dry your device on a clean surface when not in use.

To prevent microbial or food particle buildup, don’t forget to brush your teeth before wearing a mouthguard or night guard.

Key takeaways

Careful scrutiny of several brands of mouthguards and night guards revealed that, unfortunately, most of the devices are plastic. EVA and acrylic are the most common. 

These brands state their mouth gear is BPA- and phthalate-free, and while this is helpful information, it is woefully inadequate if you want to find out if something is truly toxic or not. 

In this article, I discuss the likelihood of several chemicals, some known to be toxic—including MMA and PFAS—in a sports mouthguard or dental night guard.

Some mouthguards and night guards may be constructed of silicone, but I haven’t really found any on the market that I can strongly recommend. If they’re uncoated, high quality, and food-grade, I’d choose it over those made of EVA or acrylic.

I hope this guide has been helpful for you! To learn more about which toxic chemicals to avoid in your day to day life and get practical steps on how to go about your low-tox lifestyle, check out our course: Low-Tox for Real Life.

About Jeanne

Jeanne Yacoubou, MS is an experienced researcher and writer passionate about all things environmental. She's written extensively on renewable energy, sustainability, the environmental impacts of diet, and toxic chemicals in food, water, air, and consumer products. When she’s not tending her organic garden or hanging out with her three teens, Jeanne is blogging about the latest scientific reports on our climate crisis. Jeanne holds master’s degrees in chemistry, ethics, and education. In between her graduate work, Jeanne served as a high school science teacher in Benin, West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer for over three years.

Related Posts

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *