Whether your five-year-old is playing tee-ball, your teenager is a soccer star, or you are sparring in a martial arts class, everyone of any age should wear an athletic mouthguard when participating in sports, especially collision or incidental contact sports. The injuries that can affect the mouth in these sports are painful and detrimental to your smile from both a cosmetic and a functional perspective. In fact, an athlete not wearing a mouthguard is 60 times more likely to sustain an oral or facial injury than an athlete who is wearing one. So here’s what you should know about the benefits and types of sports mouthguards.
How Do Mouthguards Work?
Mouthguards protect your teeth from impact by surrounding them with a soft, force-absorbing material, lessening the strength of a blow. Rather than colliding with each other or other areas of your mouth, the teeth remain safe within the forgiving barriers of the mouthguard. Without it, your teeth would face direct shock, and the force could easily transfer from your teeth to your jaw and surrounding facial bones, causing painful injuries.
What Sports Should I Wear a Mouthguard While Playing?
The reality is that you can sustain a dental injury in virtually any sport. We do recommend wearing athletic mouthguards no matter what sport you play, but we especially urge players and participants to wear mouthguards while playing collision sports (football, hockey, and boxing, for example) and incidental contact sports (baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.). It is better to buy and use a mouthguard now and err on the side of caution than lose a few teeth and require expensive emergency dental and medical care later.
What Injuries Do Mouthguards Prevent?
As previously mentioned, mouthguards protect the teeth from direct force by absorbing and dispersing it, and they keep teeth from knocking together. As a result, you are far less likely to face chipped teeth, fractured teeth, cracked teeth, luxation (teeth that are loosened and in the wrong position within the socket, sometimes looking longer or shorter than other teeth), or lost teeth due to impact during sports.
In addition, because mouthguards surround the teeth, they prevent teeth from biting or cutting your lips, cheeks, and tongue. Furthermore, the mouthguard disperses and absorbs force, so you are less likely to sustain a fractured or broken jaw when wearing a mouthguard. Some people theorize that wearing a mouthguard can even help prevent concussions due to this shock-absorbing factor, but this is widely debated and has yet to be definitively proven.
Aren’t Mouthguards Just for Kids and Teens?
Actually, no. Mouthguards are important pieces of equipment for any athlete of any age. It’s true that kids’ and teens’ mouths are still developing and settling into their proper shape, and mouthguards are particularly important as a result. However, adults are not immune to dental and facial injuries and therefore should wear a mouthguard, as well.
What Types of Mouthguards Are Available?
There are three primary types of mouthguards available for athletes.
Ready-Made or Stock Mouthguards
These are mouthguards that you purchase at a store as-is and they are ready to use the moment you buy them. They are typically less expensive than other types and offer some protection. However, they are not molded to your mouth and teeth, and therefore they can be quite uncomfortable and difficult to hold in place. As a result, they may slide around in your mouth a little and be less effective.
Also called “boil-and-bite” mouthguards, these are typically made of a material that can be molded when heated. You put the mouthguard in a pot of boiling water, take it out, let it cool for about 20 seconds, then place it in your mouth and bite down. As it cools, the material will maintain the shape of your bite, creating a snug and comfortable fit. These mouthguards are typically fairly inexpensive, and they are less likely to move around than their stock and ready-made counterparts. They also provide more protection.
Custom-Made Mouthguards from a Dentist
Your dentist can provide a mouthguard custom-designed to fit your precise bite pattern using a dental impression. These mouthguards tend to be the most comfortable and the most protective. As a result, they are also the most expensive , but most dentists offer discounts or financing plans to make these more budget-friendly. Before making a decision, talk to your dentist about your mouthguard needs. Find out if they offer custom mouthguards, what they recommend for you, what their payment options are, and if this option will fit both your needs and your wallet.
Talk to Your Dentist about Your Mouthguard Needs
If you are not sure about what type of athletic mouthguard is the best option for you or your child, contact your dentist. Tell them what sport you participate in and what your concerns are and they will be able to help you determine if a ready-made or moldable mouthguard will be sufficient or if a custom one may be more appropriate.
To schedule an appointment to discuss your mouthguard questions or have a custom one made, contact the Acworth Center for Family Dentistry by calling (770) 203-1711 or by filling out our online form. We’ll help you find the right mouthguard so you can play hard and stay safe!