According to the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, between 10-39% of all paediatric dental injuries are related to sports accidents, the majority of which can be prevented by the use of a simple mouthguard.
Mouthguards, also called mouth protectors, help cushion impact to the face, thus minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw. They typically cover the upper teeth and are a great way to protect the hard and soft tissues intra-orally.
When Should A Mouthguard Be Worn?
A mouthguard is a vital piece of athletic gear that should be part of sport equipment from an early age. It’s important for kids to wear their mouthguards during both practice and games. Not only does this help them become more comfortable with wearing the mouthguard, but a large portion of sports-related injuries occur during practice.
While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, are higher-risk sports for the mouth, any athlete may experience a dental injury in non-contact activities, such as gymnastics and skating.
Types of Mouthguards
The best mouthguard is one that has been custom made for your mouth by your dentist. However, if you can’t afford a custom-made mouthguard, you should still wear a stock mouthguard or a boil-and-bite mouthguard from the pharmacy.
- Custom-made: These are made by your dentist for you personally. Dr Desai takes an impression of your teeth and a guard is fabricated from this. Custom mouthguards are the most secure and protective as they are individually created for fit and comfort.
- Boil and bite: These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods stores and pharmacies and offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in boiled water then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. Although they do offer a somewhat customized fit, boil and bite mouthguards are not as strong as custom mouthguards and can exhibit bite-through problems.
- Stock: These are inexpensive and come pre-formed and ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don’t fit very well and their bulky nature can make breathing and talking difficult.
Protecting Your Braces
A properly fitted mouthguard is particularly important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. A blow to the face could damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. A mouthguard also provides a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, which will help avoid injuries to your gums and cheeks.
Although some mouthguards only cover the upper teeth, your dentist or orthodontist may suggest that you use a mouthguard on the lower teeth if you have braces on these teeth.
If you have a retainer or other removable appliance, do not wear it during any contact sports.
Mouthguard Care and Replacement
Your dentist will give you the best advice on when is the right time to replace your mouthguard, but replace it immediately if it shows sign of wear, is damaged or ill-fitting. Teens and children may need to replace their mouthguards more often as their mouths are still growing and changing.
It is important to keep your mouthguard clean and dry. Here are some tips for making sure your mouthguard is always ready to go:
- Rinse before and after each use or brush with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Regularly clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water. Then, rinse it thoroughly.
- Store mouthguards in a sturdy container that has vents so it can dry and keep bacteria from growing.
- During your regular dental check-ups, bring your mouthguard for an evaluation.
- Never leave the mouthguard in the sun or in hot water.
- Check fit and for signs of wear and tear to see if it needs replacing.
- Some mouthguards have fallen victim to family pets, who see them as chew toys. Store your mouthguard and case somewhere your pet cannot get to it.