With autumn comes fall sports season, including football, soccer, and volleyball. Here at Coppe + Sears, we see so many patients who are student athletes or active in sports in their community. That makes this the perfect time to discuss how athletic mouthguards can keep smiles safe on the field and the court! For more information on the importance of athletic mouthguards when playing sports, keep reading below.
Why athletic mouthguards are important
As important as helmets and padding are when participating in sports, mouth protection is essential for oral safety. While they may not be the first thing people think of when considering contact sports, properly fitted mouthguards prevent so many lost or dislodged teeth due to sports injuries. These types of injuries are easily preventable with the use of a properly fitting mouthguard.
When it comes to preserving an athlete’s teeth, mouthguards are the simplest and most effective solution. They are affordable, easy to use, and can help prevent damage from occurring even when used in high-contact sports like football and hockey.
Mouthguards are not just for sports where heavy contact is expected, however. They offer cushioning during light contact or low-impact sports, too. This is useful as even small amounts of pressure can irritate the mouth, and may cause small cuts or abrasions to the gums and cheeks.
In fact, sports-related injuries to the mouth can result in not only cuts and scrapes along the gum line and cheek tissue, but may also lead to displaced and broken teeth, and broken bones in the jaw. If the teeth are not properly protected, the impact to the mouth can be much more intense and increase the risk of concussion. Not only that, but the potential damage can have far-reaching effects as well. Some neck and jaw injuries plague athletes with stiffness and pain for years. Additionally, if a permanent tooth is significantly damaged, the child athlete will have to deal with maintaining the broken tooth for a lifetime with restorations, crowns, and/or dental implants.
Who needs a mouthguard?
Mouthguards are an excellent investment in a patient’s dental health. While a custom-fitted mouthguard is ideal, we encourage any kind of mouthguard over not wearing one at all when participating in sports.
Because dental injuries can be easily prevented with the use of a mouthguard, we recommend patients wear them when participating in any competitive and recreational sports, particularly those in which impact, contact, or collision are likely to occur. The American Dental Association advocates for the use of a properly-fitted mouthguard during any of the following physical activities.
- Martial Arts
- Water polo
- Field and Ice Hockey
- Equestrian Events
- Field Events
- In-Line Skating
- Any “Extreme Sports”
Different types of mouthguards
There are generally three categories of mouthguards. These will vary in terms of cost, adaptability, comfort, and protection levels.
These are the most common kind of mouthguard, and tend to be widely available at most sporting goods stores. They are the least expensive type of mouthguard and do not require any visits to the dentist, making them a good choice for budget conscious athletes. They are, however, only available in a limited range of sizes and require the mouth to be shut to keep it in place. Because it is not adapted to the patient’s mouth, it can be less effective than other mouthguards. We have these at the office (and they fit over braces!), and would be happy to give you one.
Mouth-formed (boil and bite)
These mouthguards are self-adapting. When placed in hot water, the mouthguard will soften. Once it is sufficiently cool, the patient will insert it into the mouth. It will adapt to the patient’s mouth by bite pressure, with some guidance from the tongue and fingers. If necessary, a dental professional can provide assistance with the final molding. This can be particularly helpful if the patient is undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces. This type of mouthguard is also widely available at various sports stores, and is generally designed for use at home.
Custom mouthguards are available in most dental and orthodontic offices. They are created using impressions from a patient’s mouth, and provide the best fit, adaptability, and comfort. While they are the most expensive option and will require a visit to the office to make, custom-made mouthguards are the absolute best way to fully protect a patient’s mouth when they are participating in sports of any kind.
While these mouthguards vary in price and comfort, all provide protection from injury. Whatever the type of mouthguard is selected, it should be comfortable, resistant to tearing, and made of a resilient material. It should also fit comfortably and securely, be easy to clean, and possess high-impact energy absorption that will reduce transmitted forces in case of an impact. Mouthguards should never restrict breathing.
As effective as mouthguards can be, we still ask that patients contact our office as soon as possible if the mouth takes a direct hit while playing sports. Depending on the circumstances, we may recommend an emergency dental appointment.
Caring for a mouthguard
To help extend the life of a mouthguard, patients should rinse it before and after each use. A toothbrush and toothpaste can also be used to clean a mouthguard. It is a good idea to thoroughly clean mouthguards occasionally by gently rubbing it in cool, soapy water. Care should be taken to rinse it thoroughly afterwards.
Mouthguards should be transported in a safe container with vents, and should never be left in the sun or in hot water. Patients should check for wear and tear regularly and replace the mouthguard when necessary.
For the best results, patients should not wear removable appliances like retainers with a mouthguard. Patients should put a mouthguard in for practice sessions as well as games. We also recommend visiting the dentist before every playing season, and maintaining regular dental check-ups throughout the year. Feel free to bring your mouthguard in to your regular dental check up and we would be happy to check the fit.
Choose Coppe + Sears for safer smiles
Protecting the teeth and mouth with an athletic mouthguard is important for anyone participating in organized sports or other recreational activities. Mouthguards are an essential piece of gear that should be part of any athlete’s equipment bag from an early age!
Although any mouthguard will offer some protection, a custom-made mouthguard offers the best fit, most comfort, and highest level of effectiveness. To learn more about obtaining a custom mouthguard from Coppe + Sears, get in touch with our Lexington office by calling 781-861-6120.