Dental injuries are common in sports. Wearing a mouth guard reduces an athlete’s risk of chipped teeth, lip or tongue injuries, jaw injuries and damaged braces.
“Dental trauma can cause a variety of acute or chronic conditions,” said Susan Ramdhan, a dentist at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Damage to teeth or jawbone can necessitate complex treatment on an otherwise minor or avoidable incident.”
Make mouth guards part of your uniform
Athletes should wear mouth guards if they are likely to come in contact with teammates, opponents, equipment or playing surfaces. Football, boxing, martial arts, hockey and wrestling may immediately come to mind, but dental injuries can happen during non-contact sports including soccer, gymnastics, mountain biking, baseball, basketball, roller blading, racquetball and skateboarding.
“Chin injuries are common and the force of impact travels up the lower jawbone to the base of the skull,” Ramdhan said. “A mouth guard separates the joint space to minimize injury to the base of the brain.”
Three types of mouth guards to choose from
Protecting your child’s mouth from chipped teeth doesn’t have to be expensive. Stock mouth guards from the drug store cost a few dollars. You can’t adjust their fit, so they may be uncomfortable for some children. This option may be the least expensive, however, it can be the least productive.
Boil-and-bite mouth guards sold at sporting goods stores may provide a better fit. The mouth guard is placed in boiling water to soften, then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth. This is the option most commonly used, though based on the child’s arrangement, may not cover all posterior teeth.
Custom mouth guards are made in a dental office or laboratory using impressions of the teeth. They provide the best fit and are ideal for kids who experience discomfort or obstructed breathing from store bought mouth guards. The custom fit makes them less likely to fall out on impact. These can be customized for children aged 6-12 who have mixed dentition to allow for eruption, as well as for those with braces.
Look for signs of wear or poor fit that mean it’s time to replace the mouth guard.
Keep mouth guards clean and safe
Clean mouth guards after use with toothpaste and a toothbrush. You can use dish soap if you rinse it thoroughly after cleaning.
Keep the mouth guard in a protective case so it doesn’t get broken and stays clean until the next time you wear it. Don’t leave it in a hot car where it can get warped.
Bring your mouth guard to the dentist each time you have your teeth cleaned. Your dentist can inspect and clean it thoroughly.