Avoid Visits to Your Emergency Dentist by Protecting Your Mouth during Sports
Mouthguards protect your mouth and teeth from serious injuries while playing sports.
They’re thick plastic pieces shaped like dental trays that rest in your mouth and cover your upper row of teeth. Mouthguards act as a barrier between your upper and lower teeth. This barrier prevents teeth from crashing together and damaging each other during impact.
A mouthguard also protects your teeth from an impact on the outside of your mouth, such as when a puck, stick, or ball hits your mouth and face.
Custom-fitted guards, meanwhile, match the shape of your teeth, gums, and mouth for optimal comfort and protection.
When you don’t wear a mouthguard – custom or otherwise – you’re putting yourself at risk. With damage to your teeth or mouth come high costs and the potential for further complications. Thankfully, a mouthguard is an effective and low-cost way to protect your teeth.
Do You Need a Mouthguard?
Do you play sports where impacts and collisions are common? Then you need a mouthguard.
While most sports require mouthguards as part of the player uniform, some don’t. All the same, athletes of all ages and disciplines should consider wearing mouthguards while playing high-impact sports, even if they aren’t mandatory.
Beyond hockey, football, and rugby, basketball, baseball, volleyball, and soccer are still sports where collisions and impacts are likely.
Without an effective mouthguard in place, you’re at risk of:
- Chipped, broken, or knocked-out teeth;
- Fractured crowns or bridges;
- Lip and cheek injuries;
- Root damage;
- Fractured jaws; and
Common dental injuries for athletes include:
- Cracked Teeth. These need restorative dental treatments such as extractions, crowns, bridges, implants, or root canals;
- Tooth Intrusion. This often requires immediate surgery since the tooth is driven into its socket, causing damage or death of the root nerves;
- Tooth Extrusion. This requires repositioning and splints since the tooth has partially erupted from the socket; and,
- Avulsion. A knocked-out tooth, or avulsion, can be saved within an hour of the injury, or it will need a dental implant, partial denture, or bridge as a replacement.
If you experience any of these dental emergencies, visit your emergency dentist for immediate dental care and repairs.
How Mouthguards Protect Your Teeth
Mouthguards act as a shield to protect teeth from getting knocked out, otherwise known as an avulsion. While teeth that have been knocked out can be replaced, you’ve got to act fast to make it happen. Using a mouthguard adds another layer of protection for your teeth to prevent avulsions from occurring in the first place.
Mouthguards support the teeth and prevent exposure, so they are at less risk of being cracked, chipped, or broken upon impact.
Hold Your Mouth in Place
Mouthguards keep the teeth, gums, tongue, and chin safe and secure in place. A mouthguard acts as a cushion to protect your mouth from lacerations and to reduce the likelihood of concussions.
If you get hit in the face while wearing a mouthguard, your jaw will separate properly and you’ll be at less risk of jaw injuries and damaged teeth.
Choosing the Best Dental Guard for Sports
There are three types of mouthguards available:
You can buy these over-the-counter (or off-the-shelf) at sporting goods stores. These come pre-formed and ready to use. But since these are pre-formed—and not formed to your own mouth, they don’t fit well and provide the least amount of protection. These also need constant jaw clenching to keep in the mouthguard in place. This can result in difficulty breathing, tooth and jaw pain, and even TMJ—temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ affects the jaw muscles and joints, leading to frequent headaches and jaw pain.
Boil and Bite Mouthguards
You can also buy these mouthguards off-the-shelf at sporting goods stores. These have a closer fit than stock mouthguards because they are formed to an individual’s mouth and teeth.
As the name suggests, you place the mouthguard in boiling water until the plastic is pliable. Then you place the mouthguard in your mouth and bite down to form the mouthguard to your teeth and mouth.
Once the plastic cools, it will harden in place and create a custom fit for your mouth that will require little jaw pressure to hold in place.
The problem with fitting a mouthguard on your own and without the help of a dentist is that you risk an improper fitting.
A common problem that occurs with moulding boil and bite mouthguards is that the wearer bites down too hard on the plastic. This results in the plastic becoming too thin, and either breaking or not protecting the teeth from an impact.
These mouthguards also tend to wear down after a couple of seasons.
Custom-fitted mouthguards from your dentist will provide the most comfort and protection for your mouth and teeth. They will fit it specifically to your mouth by making a detailed mould of your teeth, sending it to a lab that will create your custom mouthguard.
Your mouthguard will be created with a material based on your dentist’s recommendation to suit your specific needs. They offer the most comfort, protection, and durability while being the longest-lasting option for mouthguards, and they won’t risk losing their shape and becoming ineffective. They also provide protection against concussions.
Caring for Your Mouthguard
Children will need to replace their mouthguards more often—i.e. each season—since they are still growing and their mouths are changing. Adults should change your mouthguards whenever you notice a change in the quality or structural integrity of your mouthguard.
You can keep your mouthguard in good condition for longer with the following care tips:
- After each use, rinse your mouthguard with cool or lukewarm water;
- Use a toothbrush, water, and mild soap to clean your mouthguard thoroughly as needed;
- Store the mouthguard in a firm container with holes for protection and air circulation;
- Do not expose your mouthguard to high temperatures—i.e. direct sunlight, hot water, or hot surfaces. The heat could warp your mouthguard, causing it to no longer fit and protect your mouth properly.
Visit your local dentistry office to help you find the best custom-fitted mouthguard to protect your mouth, teeth, face, and head from serious sports injuries.