Why are Mouthguards so Important?
Mouthguards play a crucial role in providing protection for adults and children against dental injuries during sporting activities at all levels. Millions of people suffer tooth loss each year in the U.S. as a result of sports-related accidents. Many of these injuries could have been prevented simply by wearing a mouth protector.
Dental trauma is the most prevalent type of facial injury in sports. All sporting activities put participants at risk of dental injuries, but those taking part in contact sports such as football, martial arts, basketball, hockey and boxing are particularly vulnerable. Mouth protectors lessen the risk of broken or chipped teeth, nerve damage, and injuries to the jaw, lips, tongue and gums.
Away from the sports field, mouthguards can be used to ease the discomfort arising from teeth grinding during sleep or while awake.
Different Types of Mouthguard
There are three types of mouthguards:
Preformed (stock) and ready to wear.
These inexpensive mouth protectors are available from most sports equipment stores, but, according to health information resource WebMD, they are not recommended by dentists because they are bulky, hinder talking and breathing, are minimally adjustable, and provide little or no real protection.
These mouthguards, made from thermoplastic material, are also available from many sports goods stores and are designed to fit better than stock mouth protectors. They are softened in hot water and shaped around the teeth using tongue and finger pressure.
These mouth protectors are individually designed and made by dental professionals after an impression of your teeth has been taken. Because of the use of special material and the time and work involved, these mouthguards are more expensive than the other types but provide the most protection and comfort.
Generally, customized mouth protectors cover the upper teeth only, but in some cases (if you wear braces on your lower jaw, for instance) they can be designed to protect the lower teeth as well. Some custom-fitted mouthguards comprise a hard outer layer and soft inner lining for comfort. If you grind your teeth in your sleep, a special bite plate can be created to help prevent tooth damage.
The American Dental Association (ADA) says the most effective mouthguards are those made by dentists. Stock and mouth-formed guards can wear out after a few months, but custom-fitted mouth protectors typically last a year or more.
When You Should Use a Customized Mouthguard
According to the American Dental Assistants' Association (ADAA), five million people in the U.S. lose teeth in sports-related injuries each year, including fractured or cracked teeth, fractured roots, and tooth intrusion, when a tooth is driven back into the jawbone.
The American Dental Association says people of all ages and skill levels risk dental injuries in sporting activities at both competitive and recreational levels. The ADA asserts that use of a quality mouthguard is the best way to reduce the number and severity of sports-related dental injuries.
The ADA recommends the use of customized mouthguards for skydiving, weightlifting, surfing, boxing, acrobatics, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey and roller hockey, water polo, football, gymnastics, handball, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, rugby, shot-putting, skateboarding, skiing, soccer, squash, volleyball and wrestling.
Why Your Kids Should Wear a Mouthguard
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that more than half of injuries sustained during sport and recreational activities each year are suffered by children as young as five years old.
The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) says young athletes who fail to use mouth protectors are 60 times more likely to suffer dental trauma, but research by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) indicates that more than 80 per cent of children don’t wear a mouthguard during organized sports.
Other studies suggest that mouth protectors prevent more than 200,000 high school and college injuries a year.
Benefits of Professionally-Fitted Mouth Protectors
A mouthguard custom-fitted by your dentist will not limit breathing or speech, will stay in place firmly, fit comfortably, be tasteless, odorless and easy to clean, and resistant to damage.
A professionally-fitted mouth protector is particularly important if you wear braces, but retainers and other removable appliances should not be worn during sports or any recreational activity that may put your mouth at risk.
A custom-fitted mouthguard also performs an important function in lessening the risk of concussion and neck and head injuries by protecting the head against the impact of a blow to the jaw.
Mouthguards to Help Prevent Teeth Grinding
Mouthguards also afford protection in cases of clenching and/or grinding of the teeth (bruxism), a problem experienced by more than 30 million adults and children in the U.S. and which can develop at any age.
Teeth grinding most often occurs while a person is asleep. Common causes, according to the Bruxism Association, are smoking, stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and drinking too much alcohol or coffee.
Bruxism can also occur while you are awake, typically during concentration on tasks such as driving, writing, reading, or lifting heavy objects. Some studies have indicated a possible connection between teeth grinding and stress at work.
If you suffer from bruxism, it’s important to get a comprehensive assessment of your condition from your dentist, who can then develop a customized treatment plan. Wearing a mouthguard like an occlusal bite plate or night guard is the best way to combat teeth grinding while you sleep.
Standard night mouthguards are not suitable in cases of daytime teeth clenching, but special ultra-thin acrylic protectors are available that are practically unnoticeable when worn.
How to Look After Your Mouthguard
Like braces and other dental appliances, mouthguards need to be kept clean and taken care of properly. Here are a few tips:
- After each use, clean your mouthguard with a toothbrush and toothpaste, and rinse it thoroughly with cool water.
- Keep the mouthguard in a protective, perforated container that will allow air to circulate. If your mouth protector is acrylic, store it in fresh, clean water.
- Protect your mouthguard from heat, including direct sunlight, hot water and hot surfaces. This will help to keep its shape.
- Check your mouthguard regularly for general wear. If you see any holes or rips, replace it.
- Take your mouth protector to your regular dental check-ups so your dentist can examine it.
Contact Your Local Dentist For More Information
Dr. John Coburn is a firm believer in taking care of your teeth while playing sports or other activities where there is a high likelihood that your teeth could be damaged. Stop by our Coeur d'Alene Dental Office for more information or give us a call today!(208) 449-0401