There is no doubt that wearing a mouth guard when playing sports helps reduce the risk of dental injuries and oro-facial trauma. Based on reviews of the evidence, the American Dental Association (ADA) states clearly that it recommends using a fitted mouthguard to prevent both the incidence and severity of injuries from sports and other recreational activities.
The chance of incurring a facial injury is particularly elevated in high-speed and contact sports such as basketball and football. Using a mouthguard can not only reduce the impact of a collision but might also protect against concussion. In fact, studies have found that sports participants who don’t wear a mouthguard sustain around twice as many injuries as those who do. Given that at least half of all oro-facial injuries occur when playing sports, it makes sense to take the simple step of wearing a protective guard.
Children participate in a lot of sports and are therefore at an increased risk due to how frequently they play. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has issued a policy statement encouraging the mandatory use of correctly fitted mouthguards in organized sports activities where face protectors are not already required.
Why should you wear a mouth guard?
Children and adults who play any kind of sport that includes elements of speed and potential impact should consider a mouth guard. Many sports, even if they are not specifically contact sports, carry a risk of facial contact. Sports guards work by forming a layer of protection between the teeth and the source of impact, whether that’s another player, a stationary object such as a goalpost or even the opposing row of teeth. A well-fitted mouth guard will help reduce the impact of any blow to the face and minimize the chances of chipping, breaking, or losing teeth, damage to the nerves, and injuries to the tongue and cheeks.
Is it really necessary?
Mouth guards can often be seen as a nuisance rather than an essential piece of equipment, so it’s important to understand how a well-fitting guard provides vital protection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 600,000 visits to the ER every year by people who have had a dental injury playing sports, and more than 5 million teeth are knocked out.
It is also estimated that between one third and one half of athletes have had a dental injury during their life – mostly when not wearing a mouth guard. The ADA has suggested that the risk of damage to the mouth can be reduced 60-fold by wearing a guard. The use of mouth guards has been mandated by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in field and ice hockey, football, and lacrosse. Professional boxers are also required to wear mouth guards.
Which type of mouth guard is best?
There are three main types of mouth guards. Generic or “off the shelf” guards provide a one-size-fits-all option that may be cheaper but rarely fit well and are uncomfortable for the wearer. It’s also difficult to keep a generic mouth guard in place unless the mouth is closed, which is a challenge when playing sports. Another option is the moldable guard, which is shaped to the teeth by heating until it’s pliable and then biting into the material. These guards can be quite bulky and not very secure in the mouth.
The best and most reliable way to protect the teeth is with a custom-made guard. This is made by taking molds of the teeth to ensure the guard is completely customized to fit comfortably and safely in the mouth. Custom guards are made from resilient material approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A well-fitting guard will stay securely in place during sports activity, ready to absorb or limit any impact.
Mouth Guards & Braces
Wearing braces doesn’t mean athletes should avoid wearing a mouth guard, or even worse, stop playing sports. Custom mouth guards can be made to fit comfortably and safely around braces, ensuring that the teeth are protected during the journey toward the perfect smile. Dentists and orthodontists are perfectly positioned to encourage the use of mouth guards in their patients who are active in sports.
Style & Substance
Personalizing a custom-made mouth guard can be a great way to stand out from the crowd, in addition to reducing the risk of the guard getting lost or mixed up with someone else’s. Colors, thicknesses, and team decals can be added so the guard becomes an even more valued part of the sports equipment.
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