Mouthguard 101: How to Protect Your Teeth When Playing Sports
Participating in outdoor activities and sports is an enduring love every Aussie seems to be born with. Physical exercise has, without doubt, great health benefits, but we need to make sure to use the proper athletic equipment where it can prevent injuries.
Each season, thousands of athletes injure their teeth during impact sports such as rugby, soccer and boxing. In most cases, these injuries could have been avoided, had the athlete worn custom-fit sports mouthguards.
Mouthguards are devices that protect your teeth from injuries. They are made from soft plastic and sit firmly over your teeth. Mouthguards protect your teeth and act as shock absorbers, reducing the risk of injury to the teeth and jaw and preventing you from biting your lips, tongue or cheeks.
NBA player Steph Curry, known for biting on his mouthguard during basketball games, had to learn his lesson the hard way. During a game in 2007, Curry took an elbow in the face and had to get seven stitches at half-time. More than ten years later, he still has the scar – but, he got his first mouthguard fitted the very next day and has been wearing one every day since.
Basketball and soccer games can last an hour or more. That’s a lot of time in which teeth are vulnerable and at high risk of being damaged. Prevention, of course, is better than cure. It’s also a lot easier on your pockets.
Who needs a mouthguard?
Knocked-out teeth, split lips, and broken jaws: Sports are one of the leading causes of dental injuries in both children and adults.
According to Clearing House For Sport,
- 72.3 per cent of children aged 0-14 participated in a sport-related activity at least.
- 58.8 per cent of adults aged 15 and over participated in a sport-related activity once a week.
Now, you will not need to take special precautions if your recreational activities involve yoga, going for long walks, cycling (mountain biking being the exception) or going to the gym. But, if you or your child play any kind of contact sport, you should do the very best to protect your and their mouth.
These activities may include:
- Mountain Biking
So, if you or your children play any of these sports, take precautions and come to see us to have a custom-made mouthguard fitted. We promise you’ll be grateful in the long-term.
Why do you need mouthguards?
Dental injuries can be expensive and worse, may put you on the bench for the rest of the season. The recovery time for some injuries can be quite long and painful depending on how severe the damage is.
According to the American Dental Association, one-third of all dental injuries are sports-related and more than 200,000 of injuries per year could be prevented with mouthguards.
You should wear mouthguards during a game and training to:
- Protect your teeth and jaw from injuries
- Prevent chipping from contact with hard objects like bats, hockey sticks etc.
- Cushion your tongue, cheeks and lips in case you accidentally fall and bite down
Good mouthguards should feel snug and comfortable and allow you to talk and breathe easily without having to remove them. They should resist tears, be durable and easy to clean.
There are lots of different types of mouthguards available, from ready-made mouthguards and boil and bite mouthguards to custom-fit mouthguards made by your local dentist.
Here is what you should know about each type of mouthguards:
Ready-made mouthguards are inexpensive ‘one size fits all’ solutions and can be purchased at your local chemist. Whilst the low price of these mouthguards may be appealing, the lack of secure fit means your teeth are still at risk of injury. Many stock-mouthguards are rather bulky and can make breathing more difficult.
Boil And Bite Mouthguards
Boil and bite mouthguards are similar to the ready-made variety but are made of a softer, thermoplastic material that can be altered by boiling the mouthguard in water. They are sold at most sporting goods stores and offer better protection than stock-mouthguards. But whilst these mouthguards fit slightly better, the softer plastic means they aren’t as durable and strong.
The most-recommended type of mouth protection is custom-made. Mouthguards that are individually designed and fabricated by your dentist, may be more expensive than other types, but also provide the most comfort and protection from injury.
Custom-made mouthguards are made for you and you only. Your dental professional will take an impression of your teeth and send it to a dental laboratory to fabricate a perfectly fitting mouthguard moulded over the impression of your unique bite and made in your colour of choice.
Custom-made mouthguards truly offer the best protection for your teeth and can save you a lot of money in the long run – from the cost involved in fixing broken teeth. Your dentist can suggest what type of mouthguard is the right choice for you or your child.
Can you wear mouthguards if you have braces?
The short answer is yes, you can wear mouthguards with braces. And we’ll even go a step further and say that you definitely should wear mouthguards if you are playing contact sports with braces. If you get hit in the face, wires or brackets can lacerate your tongue, lips or cheeks. Braces are an investment in time and money and it would be a shame to damage them or your teeth when an elbow hits your mouth whilst playing netball, or any other contact sport.
Usually, mouthguards only go on the top row of teeth. But for braces, you might need one for top and bottom. As your teeth shift during orthodontic treatment, you will also have to regularly adjust your mouthguards to fit the new shape of your teeth. We highly recommend you to work with your dental professional to help you fit, and re-fit, your mouthguards if you or your child are wearing braces and playing contact sports.
How do you care for your mouthguard?
Dirty mouthguards pose a great risk to your health. A study published in Sports Medicine found that a wide variety of moulds and bacteria can grow on mouthguards. Links between contaminated mouth guards and serious infections and even exercise-induced asthma have been found in earlier studies as well. Therefore, it is very important that you thoroughly clean your or your child’s mouthguard after every use.
Here are a few tips on taking care of your mouthguards:
- Rinse your mouthguard immediately after use with cool water.
- When you get home, thoroughly brush it using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste, then rinse it again with soapy water.
- After rinsing, store the mouthguard in its container in a cool place. Heat can distort the mouthguard.
- A dry environment and ventilation will prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Make sure you regularly check your mouthguard for signs of wear and tear.
- At your next dentist appointment, take your mouthguard in for cleaning. Your dentist can also inspect your mouthguard to make sure it is in optimal condition.
Know when it’s time to replace your mouthguard
If your mouthguard shows signs of wear and tear it might be time for a new one. Pits and cracks are the ideal home for bacteria, and a worn-out mouthguard will not offer the same level of protection it once had. Whether you’re using a stock-mouthguard, boil and bite mouthguard or a custom-made mouthguard from your dentist, it’s important to replace it when it begins to show signs of wear.
If you have any other questions about mouthguards come and speak to Dr Alex Davies at Admire Dentistry to talk about your options. If you would like to schedule an appointment you can book online via the link or call us on (07) 3064 1044.