How Mouth Guards Help Protect Your Teeth?

January 26, 2018
How mouth Guards protect your teeth

When surveyed, 27 percent of parents claimed they had to bring their child to the emergency room after they received an injury during an organized sport. And, of all traumatic dental injuries, approximately 80 percent involve the front two teeth. In fact, an athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard, according to the American Dental Association.

Since your top front teeth protrude, trauma situations impact them more often than any tooth. From talking and smiling to eating and chewing, it would suddenly affect so many aspects of your daily life if you were to lose even one of your front teeth. And, a traumatic tooth injury might never heal properly, which can lead to long-term and expensive problems.

Knowing how to prevent face and mouth injuries is particularly important when participating in recreational activities or organized sports. Fortunately, mouthguards can help protect you or your child’s teeth by cushioning the impact to the face and reducing your risk of injuries to your mouth, thereby minimizing your chances of broken teeth. Most mouthguards cover your upper teeth, and some also protect your lower jaw.

If your child participates in organized sports — whether at the competitive or recreational level — orofacial protectors, known commonly as mouthguards, help protect their little mouths from sports-related accidents or injuries.

According to an American Association of Orthodontists survey, 70 percent of parents say what they fear the most is their child getting hurt while playing in organized sports, but 67 percent said their children doesn’t wear a mouthguard.

When You Should Wear a Mouth Guard

How do you know if you need to wear a mouth guard? Dentists and physicians cannot express the importance of a mouth guard for sports enough. Your child may be required to wear one if they play certain sports — in fact, mouthguards, should be an integral part of you or your child’s athletic gear.

While contact and collision sports like football or boxing are definitely on the list for high-risk sports for your mouth, an injury can even occur from non-contact sports, such as skating or gymnastics. In some cases, certain sports require you to wear a mouthguard to play the game. For instance, all youths must wear a mouthguard to play in the USA hockey game. They even have to be colored — and the referees must be able to see them.

It doesn’t matter who you are — both adults and children should wear mouthguards while playing contact sports like:

  • Boxing
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Field hockey
  • Racquetball
  • Lacrosse
  • Ice hockey

However, like we mentioned earlier, mouthguards aren’t exclusive to contact sports. Even people who engage in non-contact sports or recreational activities are still at risk of a mouth injury and would benefit from wearing a mouthguard. Examples include:

  • Gymnastics
  • Mountain biking
  • Skating
  • Martial arts
  • Surfing
  • Skiing
  • Skateboarding
  • Weight lifting
  • Water polo

Therefore, mouthguards should be part of any uniform. They not only protect your upper teeth, but they also protect your:

  • Lips
  • Jaw
  • Tongue
  • Face
  • Inner cheek

While the mouthguard may seem foreign at first for your child — or for yourself — it becomes second nature if worn regularly. However, no matter what type of mouthguard you get, it’s crucial to ensure it fits properly. After a while, you or your child will start feeling better wearing one — it may even feel a little weird without one.

Take this quiz, provided by the American Dental Association, for more insight as to whether you or your child needs to wear a mouthguard.

How Can Mouth Guards Help Your Teeth

Mouthguards can benefit you in many ways. They can protect:

  • You From Injuries and Damage: Since any physical activity can involve an accident or injury, wearing a mouthguard can help limit your risk of injuries to your mouth and teeth. They help prevent broken or chipped teeth, tooth loss, or nerve damage to your teeth.
  • Your Braces or Fixed Orthodontic Appliances: If your child has braces, wearing a mouthguard can help protect those, as well. Properly fitted mouthguards can be particularly essential for individuals with braces and other orthodontic appliances, such as fixed bridges. If you wear an orthodontic appliance and were to receive a blow to your face, it could damage the brackets or the entire appliance. Additionally, mouthguards provide a barrier between your child’s braces and their lips or cheeks, helping them avoid cheek or gum injuries.
  • You When Grinding Your Teeth: If you grind your teeth at night, a mouthguard for teeth grinding in the form of a bite splint or nocturnal bite plate can help prevent damage to your teeth. These are special appliances similar to a mouthguard the dentist custom designs with hard resin to match your bite. If appropriately designed, bite splints and or nocturnal bite plates are meant to reduce the activity of your jaw muscle during grinding and slow the wearing down of your teeth.

Your dentist will recommend the best mouthguard for you or your child, by making sure it doesn’t restrict speech or breathing. They’ll also ensure the mouthguard:

Different Types of Mouth Guards

Different Types of Mouth Guards

If you’re asking yourself “what mouth guard should I buy,” you have several categories to choose from, including these four types.

  1. Stock Mouthguards

Some stock mouth pieces come ready to wear, and others are pre-made. You can buy them at most pharmacies or sporting goods stores, and they’re usually inexpensive. If you buy them pre-made, however, there’s not much you can do to adjust how they fit. They’re sometimes bulky and make it difficult for you to talk or breathe. They also won’t provide much protection if they don’t fit properly.

  1. Boil and Bite Mouthguards

You may also buy these types of mouthguards at most sporting good shops. Made of thermoplastic material, they tend to fit better than the stock mouth protectors. You soften boil and bite mouthguards by placing them in hot water and place them in your mouth using your tongue and finger to shape them around your teeth.

  1. Custom-Fitted Mouthguards

Dentists recommend custom-fitted mouthguards since they’re made in an office or dental lab and are specifically designed for your mouth. The dentist first uses a mold to make an impression of your teeth.

Using a particular material, they then mold a mouthguard over the model. Custom-fit mouthguards can be more expensive than store bought since they require additional time, effort, and special material. But, they do provide the best fit, comfort, and protection.

  1. Off-the-Shelf Mouthguards

Keep in mind dentist-created molded mouthguards may need to be adjusted or replaced periodically if your child wears braces. The whole purpose of braces is to move your child’s teeth around and as this is happening, their initial mouthguard may no longer fit properly or safely protect their teeth.

In this case, you could buy a generic mouthguard and mold it yourself — as long as the sport your child plays in doesn’t require mouthguards. Certain manufacturers design special wide mouthguards so they fit over braces, as well as special double flexible or boil and bite mouthguards. Before buying off-the-shelf mouthguards, ask your dentist for their recommendation on the best brand and style to use.

If you’re buying a mouthguard for your child, you may wish to check with their instructor or coach before deciding on a specific type. In some sports, the league or team will have insurance to cover any injury or damage if the dentist designed the mouthguard.

Also, ask the team or league if they require a double mouthguard — some sports, like wrestling, necessitate your child to wear a mouthguard covering both their top and bottom teeth if they have braces on both. You’ll save money and time by asking the dentist and sports coaches precisely what’s needed.

How to Keep Your Mouth Guard in Good Condition and When to Replace It

You’ll want to consult with the dentist about the appropriate time to replace you or your child’s mouthguard. But, if there’s damage to the mouthguard, it doesn’t fit properly any longer or it shows signs of wear, you should replace it right away. Children and teenagers may have to replace theirs more often than others since their mouths are changing and growing.

You also need to know how to properly care for the mouthguard and keep it in good condition. Some tips you can follow include:

  • Rinsing the mouthpiece before and after you use it
  • Brushing it with toothpaste and toothbrush to clean or use soapy, cool water — rinse thoroughly
  • Bringing the mouthguard to the dentist’s office on checkup day to have the dentist evaluate it and even clean it thoroughly
  • Storing the mouth protector in a sturdy container when storing and transporting — ensure there are vents on the storage unit to keep the piece dry and free from bacteria growth
  • Checking the mouthguard regularly for signs it needs replacing such as wear and tear
  • Keeping it out of hot water or the sun

Keep an eye on your pet, too, as they may think the mouthguard is a chew toy. Always store it in a closed container out of your pet’s reach.

Braces and Mouth Guards

Mouthguards made for braces can be more costly than regular mouthguards. However, it’s worth the investment since it protects not only your child’s soft tissue and teeth from damage, but also their braces while they’re engaging in their favorite sport.

The American Dental Association (ADA) reports athletes not wearing mouthpieces are 60 times more likely to have teeth damage. Regardless of whether your child wears braces or not, you can prevent dental injuries and protect their teeth by making sure they wear a mouthguard while playing.

With braces, shopping for a mouthguard means you want to find a mouth protector that can protect both your child’s teeth and oral cavity. It needs to be comfortable and safe, but when you throw braces into the mix, this can be challenging.

Each braces mouthguard needs to provide:

  • Comfort: Mouthguards intended for mouths with braces can feel rubbery, bulky, and gag-inducing. Because of this, it’s a challenge even to get your little one to wear it. The bulkiness of the piece may make breathing and talking uncomfortable for them. So, it’s essential to choose a mouthguard that allows your child to easily breathe, talk, and drink while it remains in their mouth safely and comfortably for the entire game.
  • A Custom Fit: The mouth guard’s primary purpose is to protect your child’s teeth, but no two mouthguards are the same. Many mouthguards made for braces come in a “one-size-fits-all” style, so they’re typically loose and don’t provide much protection. Some mouthpieces could even damage the brackets of the braces. Custom fit mouthguards offer your child’s teeth the best protection. The dentist designs it to fit your child’s unique shape of their mouth, so they stay in place, providing ultimate protection to every corner of your child’s braces and teeth.
  • Room for Growth: As mentioned earlier, braces move your child’s teeth gradually to create a picture-perfect smile. During this process, your child’s teeth need room to move to the correct position freely. The mouthguard shouldn’t interfere with your child’s teeth movement. If the mouthguard is too tight and presses upon their braces, it can stop the forward progress of the braces.

How to Get a Mouth Guard

The best mouthguard for you or your child will be one the dentist custom makes specifically for your mouth. To be most effective, it needs to fit securely and stay put during intense sports where there’s various positions and vigorous activity involved. The dentist can decide which appliances the mouthguard would affect, such as:

  • Retainers
  • Braces
  • Dentures
  • Bridgework

Growth spurts don’t just occur in your child’s body — they can occur in your child’s mouth, as well. It’s especially important for the dentist to thoroughly evaluate your child’s mouth before choosing a mouthguard. Each sport is different and poses a different level of risk and possible injury. Therefore, the dentist chooses the type of mouthguard appropriate for the sport your child is involved in.

If you can’t afford a custom-fit piece, there’s always store-bought options. Just remember, these don’t fit as well and therefore don’t offer the same protection as custom-fit mouthguards.

Get a Mouth Guard Through AZ Family Dental

To learn more about the mouthguard that will offer you or your child the best protection possible, visit AZ Family Dental for preventive care. Our dentist will talk with you about the mouthguard and why it’s so important when your child is playing sports. We’ll also talk with you about the different types of mouthguards, which is the best choice for your child, and how you can go about getting one.

Contact AZ Family Dental to set up your appointment today!

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