Offered by Poulson Family Dental
School is back in session and so are many sports! Are you protecting yourself or your child from potential accidents or injuries? Imagine what it would be like if you suddenly lost one or two of your front teeth. Smiling, talking, eating—everything would suddenly be affected. For children, the effect is even longer lasting since they are still growing. Sometimes a delay of a decade or more is required before an injury can be effectively fixed in teens. Knowing how to prevent injuries to your mouth and face is especially important if you participate in organized sports or other recreational activities.
Mouthguards, also called mouth protectors or sports guards, help cushion a blow to the face, 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 soft tissues of your tongue, lips and cheek lining. Contact sports, like football, lacrosse and hockey, are generally thought of as the only sports where you might need a mouthguard. Unfortunately, trauma can occur in almost any activity. A properly fitted mouthguard may be especially 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 and cause injuries to your gums and cheeks. Protecting yourself or your child from dental trauma is fairly simple.
There are multiple types of mouthguards, broken down into three basic categories.
1. Custom-made mouthguards offer the best protection and the best fit. They are made by your dentist to fit your mouth only. They are the most expensive option and require a visit to your dentist.
2. Boil and bite guards offer an intermediate level of protection and fit. They can be found at most sporting good stores or drug stores. To get the semi-custom fit, these guards are heated in boiling water, then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. They tend to be a bit larger than the custom-made mouthguards but offer more protection than the last category – stock mouthguards.
3. Stock mouthguards come in different sizes and shapes but are not customizable. They tend to be more bulky and loose which can make breathing or talking more difficult. They are the least expensive because of this lack of customization. Despite their shortcomings, they still offer a good level of protection. If cost is a concern, these guards are still going to protect you or your child from trauma injury.
Between games, it’s 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 gently brush with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Regularly clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water. Then, rinse it thoroughly.
- During your regular dental checkups, bring your mouthguard for an evaluation. Your dentist may also be able to give it a thorough cleaning.
- Store and transport the mouthguard in a sturdy container that has vents so it can dry and keep bacteria from growing.
- 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.
As sports kick into high gear, take some time to protect you or your child’s teeth. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.”
Article adapted from the ADA’s Mouthhealthy.org.
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