Helmets, knee pads, shin guards. No matter what sport you play, you know how important it is to have the right equipment to protect your body. Before you step on a field or into the court, you should know that there’s one piece of equipment no athlete should be without – the mouthguard.
What Is A Mouthguard?
A mouthguard is a comfortable piece of athletic gear that fits over your teeth and can help protect your smile as well as your lips, tongue, face, and jaw. New research even indicates that mouthguards can reduce the severity of concussions.
You may have seen boxers, lacrosse players, and football players wearing this gear during games. Most recently, the American Dental Association and the Academy of Sports Dentistry have compiled a list of sports and activities where they recommend the use of a mouthguard.
While some sports on the list, like ice hockey, boxing, and rugby, are obvious candidates for mouthguards, others, like bicycling, weightlifting, and gymnastics, may seem a bit extreme. Few people realize, however, how much harm many sports can cause to your mouth, face, or head from head to head contact, hazardous falls, tooth clenching, or blows to mouth.
For example, before facemasks and mouthguards were required in football, half of all players’ injuries occurred in the mouth. During the playing season, players had a one in ten chance of receiving a mouth injury. Once high schools and colleges began requiring facemasks and mouthguards, the number of injuries reported dropped by 200,000 per year. Naturally, dentists recommend mouthguards for adults and children in any recreational activity that poses the risk of injury to your mouth.
Types of Mouthguards
There are three types of mouthguards available on the market. The one you select depends on your preferences for comfort and safety.
Ready Made Mouthguards
You may have seen this type of mouthguard in a department store or sporting goods shop. These generic mouthguards are less expensive and easy to buy. Unfortunately, they are not fitted to your teeth, so they may seem bulky and uncomfortable in your mouth. Ready-made mouthguards can also only be held in place if your jaws are closed, which can make it difficult to talk or breathe during a practice or game.
Mouth Formed Mouthguards
If you’re looking for something that is more custom fit to your mouth, you might consider mouth-formed mouthguards. There are two types.
Acrylic, shell liner mouthguards provide a comfortable and secure fit over your natural teeth. Unfortunately, many users report that this mouthguard can have an unpleasant odor or taste. It can also harden over time and lose its flexibility.
With thermoplastic mouthguards, you can place them in warm water and then shape them to your mouth using your fingers, tongue, and bite. While these maintain their flexibility over time, they can feel bulky in your mouth.
Custom Made Mouthguards
If you’re looking for the best fit, you can talk to your dentist or dental lab technician about custom-made mouthguards. During your appointment, your dental professional will take impressions of your teeth. Using these, they will create a model of your teeth and design a mouthguard to fit over the model. Because they’re customized to fit your mouth, they’re more comfortable and less likely to interfere with speech or breathing.
Before you purchase any mouthguard, however, you should talk to your dentist. Certain mouthguards or mouth protectors are recommended if you have orthodontics (braces), removable bridges or dentures, a protruding jaw, or a cleft palate.
You should always wear mouthguards during practice and games. You should never chew on your mouthguard as this can weaken the material and decrease its ability to protect your teeth. Holes, tears, and other damage may also irritate your gums or soft tissue in your mouth causing pain and other problems. If you notice damage, replace your mouthguard immediately.
Before and after each use, check your mouthguard for damage and rinse it with cold water or mouth rinse. You should also clean your guard with a toothbrush and toothpaste or in a solution of soapy water. Be sure to rinse your mouthguard well afterwards and store it in a firm, perforated container. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight or near high temperatures as this can damage the guard.
Most importantly, you should schedule regular dental check-ups, including one right before the playing season starts. When you see your dentist, bring your mouthguard and discuss any problems or concerns you may have.
Get a Mouthguard For These Sports and Activities
You can have fun and protect your mouth. The American Dental Association and the Academy of Sports Dentistry have compiled a list of sports and activities where they recommend the use of a mouthguard. You can read it below. If you have any questions, talk to your dentist.