You may not realize that the most-injured area of the body during contact sports is the mouth. Dental injuries can be permanent, painful, and costly. The good news is that injuries can be prevented or minimized by wearing a mouthguard.
A mouthguard covers the upper teeth and helps to prevent injuries to the teeth, lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw. Of course, the helmet or headgear required for the sport or activity should also be worn, as it protects against injuries to the head and neck.
While there are three kinds of mouthguards available, you should talk to your dentist about which one will provide the most protection for you or your child.
- Stock or ready-made mouthguards are the least expensive and can be bought at most sports stores. They are pre-formed and ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don’t fit very well. Many athletes complain that they make it difficult to breathe and speak or are too bulky, loose, or uncomfortable.
- Boil and bite mouthguards can also be bought at most sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouthguards. These guards are molded to fit your mouth by boiling the mouthguard in water and then biting into the warm plastic.
- Custom-fitted mouthguards are individually designed and constructed for you by your dentist. While they are a bit more expensive than other types, they have a custom fit and are more comfortable because they don’t interfere with speech or breathing.
It is a good idea to rinse your mouthguard under cold water after each use and to occasionally clean it with soap and cool water. Like your other sports gear, mouthguards can tear or wear out, so they should be replaced after each sports season.
Talk to your dentist about the right mouthguard for you. Your dentist or orthodontist may suggest that you use a mouthguard on the lower teeth if you have braces. If you have a retainer or other removable appliance, don’t wear it during any contact sport.
It’s important to wear a mouthguard if there’s any chance that you may run into other players or fall on a hard surface. Whether you’re playing hockey, football, basketball, or soccer, or if you’re taking part in recreational sports such as skateboarding, inline skating, or bicycling, you should wear a mouthguard. More than 5,000,000 teeth are knocked out each year during sports activities. Fortunately the majority of these injuries are preventable — with the proper use of a mouthguard!