Athletes depend on shoulder pads, helmets, gloves, and other essential gear to keep them safe on the field. However, there is one piece of equipment that is often overlooked. Mouthguards are recommended to athletes as a way to protect their teeth from injuries during sports. According to the American Dental Association (ACA), it’s use has been shown to reduce the risk of sports-related dental injuries.
Types of Mouthguards
If you or your child plays sports, your dentist may recommend a mouthguard to protect against sports-related trauma to the mouth.
There are three main types of mouthguards, including:
- Stock Mouthguards – These ready-to-wear mouth protectors are inexpensive and can be purchased from most pharmacies and sporting goods stores. However, most stock mouthguards are one-size-fits-all which can result in discomfort for the user. Stock guards are generally not recommended for long-term use.
- Boil and Bite Mouthguards – Also available at most sporting goods stores, boil and bite mouthguards provide a better fit than most stock guards. This is because boil and bite mouthguards are constructed from thermoplastic material that softens when placed in hot water. Once soft, the mouthguard is placed into the mouth where it can then be shaped around the teeth.
- Custom-Fitted Mouthguards – The most effective type of mouthguard is one that is made in your dentist’s office or a professional dental laboratory. These are made by using precise instructions from your dentist. To create a custom guard, your dentist makes an impression of your teeth. A mouthguard is then created that fits your mouth exactly for ultimate comfort and protection.
When to Wear a Mouthguard
Mouthguards are suitable for children, teens, and adults who participate in contact sports. Sports such as soccer, football, boxing, basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, and lacrosse are all examples. A mouthguard can also act as a safeguard for individuals who take part in non-contact sports, such as gymnastics.
Certain recreational activities can also pose a risk of harm to the teeth and mouth. Wearing a mouthguard when mountain biking, skateboarding, or engaging in similar activities can help ensure that the teeth, tongue, and soft tissues in the mouth remain protected.
Wearing a mouthguard is especially important when you have braces or fixed bridge work. Trauma to the face during sports could cause damage to these fixed orthodontic appliances. This can result in lost money and possibly a delay in orthodontic treatment. This type of protection can be made to cover and protect braces.
Caring for a Mouthguard
While mouthguards are made of durable plastic material, it is important not to chew on it or engage in any other behavior that could cause damage to the guard. Always rinse the mouthguard before and after each use with cool water and avoid contact with hot water which could alter its shape. Mouthguards should also be thoroughly cleaned after each use using soap and water or toothpaste and a toothbrush.
Store and transport your mouthguard in a perforated container to prevent damage and to encourage air circulation. Always make sure that the mouthguard is completely dry before putting it in its storage case. Also avoid putting your devise in direct sunlight and avoid high temperatures. Never share your mouthguard with another person. If the mouthguard becomes damaged, it will need to be replaced to ensure a proper fit.
At each dentist visit, bring your mouthguard to be evaluated by your dentist. If your teeth shift or your mouth grows, a custom mouthguard may need to be remade to achieve a better fit. Replacement is also recommended if the mouthguard becomes torn, split, or cracked, or if the fit of the mouthguard starts to deteriorate resulting in discomfort.
Speak with a Dentist Today
Mouthguards can help prevent broken, chipped, and knocked-out teeth. They can also help protect the lips, tongue, and face by redistributing forces during a blow to the head. Although a mouthguard cannot prevent serious injuries like a concussion, it can help to reduce the severity of certain injuries to the face and mouth. When you consider the many ways mouthguards can help you maintain good dental health and wellness, it only makes sense to wear one while playing sports.
Speak with a dental professional at Bonham Dental Arts today to learn how a mouthguard could help protect you or your child from sports injuries.