Do you worry that your child or adolescent will suffer a dental injury, such as a chipped or broken tooth, while playing sports? Although dentists use bonding and veneers to repair broken teeth, in many cases, the damage is permanent.
However, fitting your young athlete with a mouth guard helps protect his or her teeth and mouth from injury. In fact, studies show that athletes who don’t wear a mouth guard are 60 times more likely than those who do to suffer a dental injury.Read more on why you should have your children wear mouth guards when playing sports, the options available to you, and how to care for a mouth guard.
Risk of Oral Injury
Whether your child plays an individual or team contact or non-contact sport, mouth guards offer protection. Although not all sports require the use of mouth guards as protective gear, these appliances help protect against other oral injuries that can occur when playing sports such as football, ice or field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer. Even volleyball, baseball, basketball, and gymnastics come with some level of risk.
Mouth guards aren’t just helpful when your child plays competitive sports but also when he or she is skateboarding, inline skating, or biking for recreation. Any blow to the face that occurs during organized sports or recreational play poses a risk of dental or other oral injury.
Protection Mouth Guards Offer
Mouth guards protect a child’s teeth from tooth fractures, tooth loss, gum lacerations, and injury to the lips, tongue, gum, and inside of the mouth. They also help protect your child from facial trauma, jaw fractures, and even mild concussions that a hard blow to the chin can cause. The appliances protect against cracked dental crowns and damaged dental bridges as well.
Based on what your budget can afford, there are different types of mouth guards available. But since some offer more comfort and protection than others, you need to consider your child’s specific needs and level of sports activity.
One Size Fits All
An over-the-counter stock mouth guard you buy at a sporting goods store is cheap and ready to wear, but it isn’t designed so that you can adjust the removable appliance for fit. Because of their poor fit, stock mouth guards can make speech and breathing difficult.
Boil and Bite
A mouth-formed, or boil and bite, mouth guard that is made from an acrylic material offers more protection than a stock mouth guard. You put the guard in hot water to soften it and then use your fingers to shape it around the teeth.
Although more expensive than a mouth guard you buy at the store, a custom-fit mouth guard provides the most comfort and best protection. Made in the dentist’s office or a dental laboratory, custom mouth guards are cast to fit teeth and absorb different levels of impact depending on the sport.
A mouth guard should cover the teeth and gums and fit tight enough so that it won’t come loose. Since a custom guard is designed to stay on the teeth during impact, the only way it should come out is by pulling it out. With the right fit, a mouth guard should not interfere with your child’s ability to talk or breathe.
Most mouth guards are designed to fit the upper teeth, but your child’s dentist may recommend a mouth guard for the lower teeth too—especially if your child wears braces or has fixed bridgework. A mouth guard can prevent damage to these appliances if your child experiences a hard fall to the ground or is hit in the face with a ball, bat, or sport stick.
Wear and Care
Your child must wear a mouth guard properly for the best protection. Cleaning a mouth guard is important too since improper care can lead to the growth of fungus and bacteria that cause infection. Instruct your child to do the following:
- Wear the mouth guard during both practices and games
- Avoid chewing on a mouth guard to hold it in place, as this can wear it out sooner
- Rinse off a mouth guard with cold water both before and after each use
- Regularly clean the mouth guard with a toothbrush and toothpaste or mild soap
- Store the mouth guard in a hard, perforated container to allow air to circulate around it
- Replace a mouth guard that has holes or tears
A mouth guard also needs to be replaced as your child grows. Therefore, take the mouth guard with you whenever your child has a dental checkup. That way, your dentist can examine it for loose or tight fit and signs of wear. Tears in the mouth guard material can lead to gum irritation or inflammation of soft tissue inside the mouth.
If you’re concerned that your young athlete is at risk of dental trauma or injury, the dental professionals at Crest Hill Family Dental are happy to provide you with more information about the protection custom mouth guards offer.