Sports Mouth Guards

Today’s young athlete can choose from a variety of sports safety equipment to protect life and limb. Helmets, knee pads, safety goggles, face masks and mouthguards help prevent serious injury on the playing field. Mouthguards, also called mouth protectors, are particularly important in protecting a teen’s smile.

Athletic mouth protectors (also referred to as mouth guards) are soft plastic appliances worn in the mouth to prevent damage to teeth. They are made to fit comfortably to the shape of the teeth. They are available in “off the shelf” versions and custom made mouth guards that fit only the individual they were made for. These custom made versions are made from impressions of the individual’s teeth.

In recent years mouth guards have become more and more prevalently used during sports activities. You’ve probably noticed at a Sharks Hockey game, players chewing on them on the bench. In addition to the teeth, they also protect the tongue, cheeks, lips and jaw. Statistics show that oral injuries are greatly reduced when athletes wear them. More and more organized sports are requiring their use, and appropriately so.

As mentioned, both over the counter and custom mouth guards are available. Either kind is better than none. The least effective mouth guard is the one that your child doesn’t wear! Youngsters sometimes tend not to wear units that feel too bulky, fit improperly or excessively impair speech.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that anyone engaging in active sports wear a mouthguard. Some active sports include football, basketball, soccer, hockey, skateboarding and volleyball. There are many other sports that also have the potential to seriously harm the head, face or mouth as a result of head-to-head contact, falls, tooth clenching or from impact with equipment. A well-constructed mouthguard used during any of these sports can help prevent injury to the mouth, teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue.

There are three types of mouthguards

  1. Ready-made or stock mouthguards
  2. Mouth-formed guards
  3. Custom -made mouthguards

The three types differ in comfort, fit and cost. The most effective mouthguards are resilient, tear-resistant, comfortable and thin enough for comfortable breathing.

Custom Mouth Guard

Custom-made mouthguards, developed by the dentist, are shaped to closely fit a player’s teeth. The custom-made device can provide all the qualities found in the ideal mouthguard. No matter which mouthguard is chosen, only the upper teeth should be covered for the following reasons:

  1. the upper teeth usually overlap and therefore protect the lower teeth
  2. the front teeth are the most frequently injured
  3. covering the lower teeth may create additional bulk, diminishing comfort and fit while providing little extra protection.

Some special circumstances, such as a protruding jaw or the presence of orthodontic appliances (braces, for example) may require that the lower teeth also be covered. Your dentist can determine if such a condition might apply.

Orthodontic retainers should not be used when participating in contact sports. Individuals wearing orthodontic “braces” should wear a mouthguard that has been custom made by their dentist. Young athletes will find that wearing mouthguards during practice and while on the playing field makes good sporting sense.