By:Chrissy Abel ; Dental Assistant
Fall sports are in full swing, and youth sports participation has grown rapidly over the years. As a result of the dramatic growth in contact sports, the incidence of injury has also increased. Of all the injuries that occur during the season, many of these sports related injuries are maxillo facial injuries, especially dental injuries. Injuries can lead to the need for root canal therapy, extractions, bridges, crowns, and even implant placements. Additionally, you can find yourself or your child with fractured or broken teeth, lip and cheek injuries, a fractured jaw and root damage.
Wearing a mouth guard during both practice and games can help you prevent these costly injuries. The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouth guard. So, what exactly is a mouth guard?
A mouth guard is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a soft plastic device that usually fits snugly over the upper teeth and is used to prevent injury to the cheeks, lips, tongue, jaw and most importantly, your teeth. While some high contact sports like football, hockey, and lacrosse require the use of mouth guards, other sports like volleyball and baseball just highly recommend it. Sports that require the use of a helmet or face mask do not take the place of a mouth guard, as injuries can still occur despite the helmet.
While a mouth guard is an investment in your sport, parents and athletes must keep in mind that what you pay for a mouth guard is hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars cheaper than the work that would be needed to repair a dental injury. All guards should have the same qualities; they should fit properly, be durable, be easily cleaned, and they should not restrict speech or breathing. After each use, it should be cleaned using cool, soapy water, and be thoroughly rinsed, as well as inspected for any defects. Just like any sporting equipment, the guards can wear out over time and require replacing.
In the world of mouth guards, there are generally three different kinds. Each one is different in comfort, fit, and cost. Be sure to consult with your dentist to determine which mouth guard is best for your child.
- Custom Made Mouth Guard: This type of mouth guard is by far the best mouth guard in terms of its fit, comfort, and protection. You will need to visit your dentist to have the proper impressions taken for the lab work needed to fabricate this custom guard. These mouth guards are an exact replica of your teeth and offer the most support and comfort during use.
- Boil and Bite Mouth Guard: The boil and bite is a thermoplastic mouth-formed protector and is usually softened by boiling it in hot water. It is then shaped to the teeth by placing the heated guard into the mouth and bringing the teeth together to form the guard properly. These are found in most sporting goods stores and pharmacies.
- Generic or Stock Mouth Guard: These mouth guards come in various shapes and sizes, and are not meant to be boiled for proper shaping. These ready made guards are found in most if not all sporting goods stores. Since little can be done to adjust the fit of these guards, wearing them can be very uncomfortable, causing irritation on the gums and cheeks.
If you, your child, or someone you know is interested in a guard but is unsure which type to get, we would be happy to help you determine which guard would be best for you to keep your mouth safe!