March 15, 2013
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941

Mouthguards Provide Protection for Another Season of Sports

In the coming weeks Spring will be in full swing, bringing with it sunny days, green grass and the launch of another season of school athletics and other recreational activities. As athletes of all ages gear-up and prepare to take to the fields, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is encouraging all participants to be equipped with one of the most important injury-preventative pieces, the mouthguard.

Typically, the use of a mouthguard is associated with contact sports, but the risk of experiencing an oral injury also exists in non-contact sports. PDA recommends wearing a mouthguard when engaging in sports and activities that are performed on hard surfaces, where contact is made with other players, those involving the use of a ball or stick, or when riding a bike or skateboard.

With the use of a properly fitted mouthguard, your smile is protected and your chances of sustaining oral related injuries are significantly reduced. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an athlete is 70 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard. In addition, almost one-third of all dental injuries are sports related.

Dr. Andrew Gould, a PDA member in Central Pennsylvania, team dentist for the Hershey Bears and Harrisburg Senators, and a member of the Academy for Sports Dentistry, says mouthguards have come a long way in protecting athletes in many ways.

“Depending on the sport that you play, each mouthguard has its purpose and degree of tooth protection that one needs to play a sport effectively and protect oneself against either tooth injury and/or concussions,” Dr. Gould said.

It is more than just your teeth that are protected from trauma—your lips, tongue, cheeks, face and jaw also are cushioned from potential impact and injuries. While the primary role of mouthgaurds is to protect the teeth and orofacial structures, wearing one may also reduce the chances of a concussion caused by a blow to the jaw.

Since an injury to the face could damage orthodontic brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances, a properly fitted mouthguard is particularly important for individuals who wear braces. It acts as a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, limiting the risk of lacerations and tears.

To ensure proper fit, a mouthguard is best fitted by a dental professional. 

There are three types of mouthguards:

  • Stock mouthguards: least expensive, but offer less protection because the fit adjustment is limited.
  • Boil and bite: when heated and placed in the mouth, the mouthguard molds itself to the teeth and sets.
  • Custom-made: made by a dentist from a cast of the patients mouth. They are more expensive, but offer the best protection, fit and comfort.

Be sure to rinse your mouthguard with cold water before and after each use. Clean it regularly with a toothbrush and toothpaste, and soak it in mouthwash. Avoid leaving your mouthguard in direct sunlight and rinsing it with hot water—doing so can cause distortion or damage. When not in use, store it in a firm, well ventilated plastic container.

Discuss with your dentist which mouthguard option is best for you or your child. Remember, the cost of this simple form of protection is far less than the cost of the treatment of a sports related dental injury.

About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.