Most people don’t realize the impact of a mouth or tooth injury until they’ve suffered one. Daily habits like eating and talking are no longer routine. Long-term damage can result. Athletes of all ages, especially those of contact sports are at a high risk of oral injuries. Many of these injuries can be avoided by using a mouth guard.
A mouth guard is a soft gel or laminate device that helps prevent injuries to the mouth, cheeks, tongue and jaw. Any athlete can use it, but kids involved in collision or contact sports should give the equipment special consideration. The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouth guards for the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling.
What are the types of mouth guards and how should you choose one?
There are three common types of mouth guards:
Stock mouth guard: Purchased at sporting goods stores, this mouth guard comes in various sizes (small, medium, large) and is ready to use. The athlete simply puts it in the mouth after removing from the package.
Mouth formed “boil and bite” mouth guard: Made from a thermoplastic material, this mouth guard is first immersed in boiling water and formed in the mouth by using fingers, tongue and biting.
Custom-made mouth guard: Custom-designed by a dentist to fit the athlete’s particular mouth shape and needs.
All mouth guards generally only cover the upper teeth and provide varying degrees of protection. The most effective mouth guard should be:
• Resilient and tear-resistant
• Properly fitted
• Durable and easy to clean
• Doesn’t restrict speech or breathing
How do you care for a mouth guard?
It’s important to rinse the mouth guard with cold water or an antiseptic rinse before and after each use. You can also clean it with a toothbrush and toothpaste. When not being used, store the mouth guard in a firm perforated container that allows air circulation and prevents damage. Avoid high temperature areas (hot surfaces, direct sunlight) that can distort the shape.
Inspect the mouth guard for tears or holes. A mouth guard that is in bad shape can irritate the mouth and lessen the protection. Bring your mouth guard to regular dental checkups for review.