The Importance of Athletic Mouthguards

The Importance of Athletic MouthguardsAs the summer season (not the summer heat) draws to an end and we get ready to send the kids back to school, I thought I’d touch on protection for those pearly whites and the surrounding tissues. Whether it’s the kids playing sports, adults in a recreational league, or professional athletes, anyone participating in sports should think of a mouthguard as an essential part of their equipment to protect, not just their smile, but their oral health. Mouthguards cushion the blows that can cause broken or displaced teeth, as well as injuries to lips, tongue, face, and jaws.

There are three types of mouthguards:

  • Stock – these are ready-made mouthguards that come in limited sizes. These do not fit well, can be very uncomfortable, and offer the least protection. They are also the least expensive and can be bought in drug stores or sporting goods stores.
  • Boil and Bite – these are also sold at the stores mentioned above, and they are relatively inexpensive but significantly more comfortable. They come in limited sizes, however, they are placed in boiling water to soften them and then placed in the mouth to conform to the shape of the teeth. These are a good option for kids whose jaws are still growing and are in the process of losing and gaining teeth. They will need to be replaced more often. Look for one with the ADA seal of approval.
  • Custom mouthguards – these are made by your dentist specifically for your fit and comfort. These are the most expensive, protective, and durable of all. These are the best option once all teeth are in place and there is no current orthodontic treatment.

Mouthguards are usually worn on the upper teeth because they stick out further than the lower teeth and are typically the ones injured, whether it’s by a ball, puck, bat, elbow or fall. They also help cushion the blow to the jaw and lower teeth as they absorb the force of the impact. Mouthguards also protect the soft tissues of the cheeks from injury from the teeth or braces. Athletes with braces may benefit from a mouthguard that covers both the upper and lower teeth.

Caring for your mouthguard is easy.

  • Brush it with warm water after every use.
  • Store it in a case that has some ventilation to make sure it stays dry and free of mold.
  • Store it away from family pets who love to use them as chew toys!
  • Store them away from direct heat or sunlight, to maintain the integrity of the shape.
  • Take them with you to your dentist when you go in for your cleaning appointment. They can clean them for you and check the fit, wear and tear.
  • Always replace your mouthguard when it does not fit properly.

Good habits start early so get the kids wearing them as soon as they start playing sports, so they will think of them as an essential part of their athletic gear for a lifetime.

That’s all from me this month – now let’s play ball!

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