The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety asserts that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to their teeth when not wearing a protective mouth guard. And unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some injuries to result in permanent damage which might require medical treatment.
Since participation in youth and adolescent sports continues to rise, incidences of sports-related injuries keep climbing as well. It’s estimated that around 20 to 25 million youths participate in competitive sports, and reports indicate that sports account for approximately 36 percent of all unintentional injuries to children and adolescents. Of those injuries, 10-20 percent are maxillofacial injuries, (defects, trauma and esthetics of the mouth), according to the American Dental Association.
Mouthguards are valuable because they muffle the blow to the face, subsequently decreasing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw. Typically, mouth guards cover the upper teeth because that’s generally where the brunt of trauma occurs.
In addition to broken teeth and tissue damage, mouth guards protect against possible jaw fractures. A direct blow to the head that causes your teeth to bang together can put tremendous pressure on jawbones, resulting in breaks or fractures. The flexibility and padding offered from a mouth guard displaces the force, which can save your jaw.
Currently, mouth guards are required by the NCAA in several sports, including men’s and women’s lacrosse, field hockey, football and ice hockey. It has even been suggested that a properly fitted custom mouth guard can help reduce the rate of concussions.
While mouth guards are specifically important for any contact sports such as football, wrestling, martial arts, volleyball, soccer, basketball and hockey, it is also highly recommended for non-contact sports and recreational activities too.
Types of mouth guards:
Your dentist can create a custom-made mouth guard for you personally. They are the most effective because they are individually created for fit and comfort. Some dentists run discounts or specials for local youth athletes.
- Boil and bite:
Available at most stores with sporting goods merchandise, these may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are fitted by softening it in boiled water, then inserted and bit down on to adapt to the shape of your mouth. Look for boil and bite mouth guards that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Inexpensive mouth guards that come pre-formed and ready to wear. Unfortunately, most of the time they don’t fit well. They can also be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
For the best protection, fit and comfort, a mouth guard custom made by your dentist is a valuable piece of gear. If the custom-made mouth guard is to costly, a boil-and-bite mouth guard offers some protection and is better than a stock mouth guard or nothing at all.
A custom-made, properly fitted mouth guard is especially important for athletes who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. Brackets are easily damaged from a blow to the mouth, and the mouth guard provides a barrier between the brackets and lips, cheeks and gums in case of an impact.
If you play sports, or your kids do, talk to your dentist about a custom-made mouth guard as well as the proper care, cleaning and replacement protocol for them. If the mouth guard becomes worn, damaged or ill fitting, it probably needs to be replaced.
American Dental Group is a Colorado company partnering with independent, hometown dentists to offer affordable dental care to families and groups up and down the Front Range. With our discount plan, members save more money and have more control of their oral healthcare than with traditional dental insurance.