Why wear a mouthguard?
Mouthguards reduce the incidence of injuries to the teeth and mouth. Most dental injuries sustained by athletes are preventable. The loss of one tooth over a patient's lifetime may cost thousands of dollars, many times the cost of the most expensive custom mouthguard. It would save the patient much time in the dental chair, as well as other dental complications associated with the loss of teeth. In addition, wearing a mouthguard reduces the incidence of concussion as a result of a blow to the jaw.
What are the characteristics of a good mouthguard?
A mouthguard generally covers the upper teeth. It should fit well with excellent retention. It should be comfortable and not interfere with breathing or speech. A good mouthguard should be durable, protect all the teeth and have adequate thickness in critical areas. Other qualities to look for are resilience, tear resistance and ease of cleaning. A well fitting mouthguard will stay in the participant's mouth where it belongs and not affect athletic performance.
What are the types of mouthguards?
- Stock protectors are ready to wear. They are the least expensive but can be bulky, ill fitting and uncomfortable.
- Boil and bite mouthguards are first softened and then placed in the mouth for adaptation. These should be made with a great deal of care to ensure that they are protecting all the teeth and are not too bulky in the wrong places.
- Custom fitted mouth protectors are made from a cast of the patient's mouth. They are more expensive than the above types of guards, but can be made to have excellent fit, retention and comfort. Thickness will depend on the type of custom fitted mouthguard fabricated.
- Laboratory pressure laminated mouthguards are a more advanced custom mouthguard. They are made by laminating two or three layers of material to achieve maximum thickness and protection.
Who should wear a mouthguard?
Anyone (adult or child) who participates in a sport or recreational activity that contains the risk of sustaining injury to the teeth or jaw should wear a mouthguard. Participants in organized sports such as football, ice hockey, field hockey, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, wrestling, lacrosse, in-line skating, martial arts, soccer and others should wear mouthguards. Mouthguards have long been associated with contact sports but also protect participants of non-contact sporting activities as well.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an athlete is 70 times more likely to sustain damage to teeth when not wearing a mouthguard and almost one-third of all dental injuries are sports-related. During a single athletic season, athletes have a 1 in 10 chance of suffering a facial or dental injury.
Can a mouthguard be worn with braces?
It is very important to wear a mouthguard. In addition to providing the usual protection to the teeth and mouth, it will reduce the risk of lacerations from orthodontic wires and brackets as well as damage to these appliances. Consult your PDA member dentist or orthodontist, since factors such as tooth eruption and movement may have to be considered.
How should a mouthguard be cared for?
A mouthguard can be cleaned with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Clean occasionally with cold soapy water and rinse thoroughly. It is best to avoid hot water or hot surfaces to minimize distortion. Do not leave in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile as it can be damaged by exposure to heat. The mouthguard can also be soaked in mouthwash before storing. Check for tears or holes. Prior to and after each use, rinse with cold water. Store in a well-ventilated plastic storage box. Do not bend while storing.
When should a mouthguard be replaced?
If a mouthguard no longer fits, has tears or holes and is a source of discomfort, it should be replaced. Consult your PDA member dentist for needed replacement of a custom mouthguard.
Academy of General Dentistry: Mouthguards
Academy for Sports Dentistry
American Dental Association: Mouthguards
News Release: Mouthguards Provide Protection for Another Season of Sports