According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are over 600,000 sports-related dental injuries treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. annually. Now that the kids are back in school and sports programs are in full swing, it’s a good idea to think about protecting their mouth and teeth from accidents with a mouth guard.
A mouth guard is a plastic device that fits over the upper teeth, cushioning and protecting them from impact. Generally, there are three types of mouth guards are available including:
- “Stock” mouth guard: These are preformed, ready to wear, and available at most sporting good stores. They are usually inexpensive and come in a few different sizes, but the fit is not adjustable. These devices are bulky, and can make breathing and talking difficult. Most dentists don’t recommend these, because the protection they offer is minimal.
- “Boil and bite” mouth guard: These are also available at most sporting goods stores often fit better fit than stock mouth protectors. The “boil and bite” mouth guard is softened in hot water, and then placed shaped around the teeth. Not always a perfect fit, these mouth protectors are an acceptable budget-conscious choice.
- Custom designed mouth protectors are designed and made in a dental office or dental laboratory based on individual needs and to fit individual anatomy. Your dentist will make mold of your teeth, and a mouth guard is then constructed from the model using special plastic material. The extra time and work involved in making a custom mouth guard means that it is more expensive than the other types; however, the benefit is that it provides the most comfort and protection possible.
The American Dental Association recommends the use of custom made mouth guards for anyone who participates in vigorous physical activity such as baseball, football, basketball, hockey, skateboarding, wrestling, bicycling, racquetball, skiing, and even weightlifting. Evidence indicates that a custom made mouth guard can prevent or minimize some of the most common oral and facial injuries which include:
- Lacerations. A custom-fit, professionally made mouth guard covers the sharp surfaces of the teeth to protect the soft tissues of the cheeks, lips, gums and tongue from cuts that can result from a blow. This is especially important for people wearing braces.
- Jaw and tooth damage. A mouth guard also helps to prevent injuries to the jaws and teeth, which can include but chipped and broken teeth or teeth that are partially or fully knocked out of their natural position.
- TMJ (jaw joint) Trauma. A mouth guard that fits well will reduce the potential for knocking the jaw out of place or fracturing the joint, because the jaws are cushioned against the impact. This is especially important for individuals with TMJ problems.
- Jaw Fracture. A custom made mouth guard absorbs and distributes impact forces so that jaws are protected. And it is this reduction in force that can help prevent the jaws from fractures.
Make a dental appointment for your child (or for yourself) to discuss whether a mouth guard is important protection during your favorite activity. Prevention is always less expensive and less uncomfortable than treating damage or injury… Play it safe!