Don’t be the victim of a preventable injury: wear a mouth guard. While mouth guards are not mandatory equipment in all sports, their worth is indisputable. Dentists see many oral and facial injuries that might have been prevented by the use of a mouth guard.
Facial injuries in nearly every sport can result in damage to teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue. Mouth guards cushion blows to the face and neck. A mouth guard should be part of every athlete’s gear, no matter the sport. It’s better to play it safe than face a devastating and painful oral injury.
Even adults are not free from the dangers of mouth injuries. Dentists treat many trauma injuries in weekend athletes. Whatever your age or sport, mouth guards are an important part of sports safety and your exercise routine. Do what you can to protect your smile and preserve your health.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do wear a mouth guard at all times when playing sports.
- Do inform yourself about the most common oral injuries.
- Do wear a mouth guard custom-fitted by your dentist, especially if you wear fixed dental appliances such as braces or bridgework.
- Do not wear removable appliances (retainers, complete or partial dentures) when playing sports.
What are your choices:
There are three types of mouth guards: custom-made, mouth-formed and ready-made.
1. Custom-made mouth guards are professionally designed by your dentist from a cast model of your teeth. Because they are designed to cover all back teeth and cushion the entire jaw, they can prevent concussion’s caused by blows to the chin. Custom guards may be slightly more expensive than commercially produced mouthpieces, but they offer the best possible fit and protection. They are more secure in the mouth and do not interfere with speech or breathing. Communicating, for instance, will not be impeded by custom guards.
2. Mouth-formed guards, also called “boil and bite,” should also be fitted by your dentist. This is generally done by shaping a soft pre-formed guard to the contours of the teeth and allowing it to harden. However, these devices are difficult to design for athletes who wear braces and can become brittle after prolonged use. They also provide minimal protection and hence are never recommended over custom formed mouthguards.
3. Ready-made, commercial mouth guards can be purchased at most sporting goods stores and are made of rubber or polyvinyl. They are the least expensive but also the least effective, offering minimal, if any, protection to the teeth.
Keep your mouth guard in top shape by rinsing it with water or mouthwash after each use and allowing it to air-dry. With proper care, it will last the length of a season and generally a lot longer.
Maintenance of your mouth guard
- Always store in container provided when not in use. Do not place the mouth guard in your sports bag or pocket unless it is in the container
- Do not rinse your mouth guard with hot or boiling water as it may melt
- Do not leave your mouth guard in hot places, such as the dashboard of the car, as the shape may deform and no longer fit your mouth
- If your mouth guard has been constructed in the mixed dentition (i.e. baby and permanent teeth), your mouth guard may only last one season. If the mouth guard comes loose or does not fit correctly due to loss of baby teeth or further eruption of permanent teeth, a new mouth guard should be constructed
- Following sport, carefully brush your mouth guard with toothpaste, paying particular attention to the tooth fitting surfaces, which are more grooved and prone to plaque accumulation. This may lead to a bad taste or odour from your mouth guard
- During sport, do not chew or clench on your mouth guard, as this may increase muscle fatigue and promote headaches
Proper care and maintenance of your mouth guard will provide many seasons of injury free sporting activity.