Injuries of the face and mouth can happen when participating in contact sports such as football, basketball, ice hockey, boxing or lacrosse.
Common injuries include damage to the lips, tongue, soft tissues of the mouth, chipped or broken teeth or nerve damage to a tooth. It’s estimated that more than 5 million teeth are knocked out in sporting activities each year.
While this number is staggering, the American Dental Association estimates that more than 200,000 oral injuries are prevented every year because of the use of sports mouthguards.
When worn properly, statistics show that a protective, customized mouthpiece decreases the risk of injury by 99 percent.
A properly fitted mouthguard not only prevents oral injuries but also offers protection by absorbing high impact energy from traumatic blows that could potentially cause facial fractures or neck injuries. In addition, mouthguards can provide substantial protection to patients receiving orthodontic treatment such as braces.
The education of athletes, parents and coaches is essential and the dental community plays an influential role by discussing the significant risks of injury in athletic and recreational activities and the preventive advantage of properly fitted mouthguards.
Types of Mouthguards:
- Custom-Made: These guards are made by a dentist from a cast model of your teeth. They are fitted to your teeth and designed to stay in place with no effort. An athlete is able to speak and breathe easily while wearing the guard. These guards are considered to be the best type of protection because they offer the best possible fit and protection and are the most comfortable.
- Mouth-Formed or ‘Boil and Bite’: These guards are usually made of acrylic gel shaped to fit the contours of your teeth. They’re placed in boiling water then formed and molded to your teeth. Commercially produced, these do not offer the same fit or protection as custom-fitted mouthguards.
- Ready-Made: These guards are the least expensive and can be found in most sporting goods stores. They don’t have the precise fit, comfort, retention or stability that a custom-made mouthguard will have and athletes often find them uncomfortable and difficult to keep in place.
Because student athletes experience growth spurts, it’s important to have a dentist evaluate a child or adolescent’s mouth before choosing a mouthguard. Since various sports involve different levels of risk and potential injury, your dentist can customize a mouthguard based on the specific activity.
Wearing a properly fitted mouthguard during athletic or recreational activities is an important precaution for athletes of any age and ability.