Words like “tough” and “strong” go hand in hand with the idea of the Army. Its recruits go through vigorous and ongoing trainings in order to keep them, well, tough and strong in order to defend our country.

And, yet, despite all their routine workouts, strenuous drills, and actual combat experience, no member of the Army is unbreakable. This is apparent when it comes to dental care for our nation’s soldiers: now, they must wear mouthguards to prevent injuries during particularly demanding training sessions, as deemed by an official military regulation. A recent study found that this motion is warranted because members of the Army are the most likely of any in the armed services to have tooth loss due to injuries. As further proof of its importance, a 1999 study revealed a 74 percent in dental-related injuries in combat training as soon as soldiers were outfitted with mouthguards.

Obviously, a mouthguard is designed to prevent teeth from chipping, cracking, fracturing or completely falling out during any type of strenuous activity. It also prevents you from biting down too hard and hurting your tongue, the inside of your mouth, or even your lips. The types of activities most likely to require a mouthguard are ones that incur an increased risk of falls, head-to-head contact, teeth clenching, or any other type of blow to the mouth.

These parameters might have you thinking about the sports in which you participate in your own life — while not as strenuous as military training, you might just be up against a similar list of risks whenever you step out onto the field. The American Dental Association and the International Academy of Sports Dentistry thought the same, and therefore have identified 29 sports in which they recommend participants wear mouthguards. You can probably guess the types of activities that made the list: football, skateboarding, skiing, softball, and equestrianism all pose a risk to your dental health.

The best way for soldiers and civilians alike to protect their teeth during these types of activities is with a custom-made mouthguard that’s molded to the unique patterns of their bites. A dental professional creates these for his or her patients for a snug fit and, therefore, the highest level of protection. Some sporting good stores sell mouthguards that you can boil, soften and bite to create a semi-custom fit. This is better than a ready-to-wear mouthguard without any impressions whatsoever, but your best bet is always with protection customized to fit your mouth. Then, all you have to do is get back out on the field and play — or train — your heart out.