The importance of mouth guards when playing sports

28th February 2016

Why a mouth guard?

Mouthguards or sportsguards offer unbeatable protection against sporting injuries to the teeth, jaw, neck and brain. They protect (most commonly) from broken and damaged teeth and broken or dislocated jaws. The American Dental Association (ADA) found more than 200,000 oral injuries are prevented each year by wearing a mouth guard.

Put simply, a mouthguard is a plastic horseshoe shaped cover that fits exactly over the teeth and gums, cushioning them and protecting them from damage. Rather like you wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle, you wear your mouthguard whilst playing sports. Custom-made mouthguards can prevent damage to the jaw, neck and even the brain – helping to prevent the concussion and damage caused by a heavy blow.

What type of mouthguard?
Self fit

A self fit is designed for average size mouths that are heated up to mould to better fit the mouth. Opro sells a range of these types of guards. They are better than nothing, but much harder to wear and do not offer the same levels of protection as a custom fit.

Custom fit

A custom fit mouthguard, made from moulds of your mouth, will provide YOU with the best protection. It will also be more slimline and comfortable to wear. It features indentations of the lower teeth on its biting surface so the lower jaw is safely immobilised on impact, preventing reverberation of the brain. A custom-fit mouthguard also has your name imprinted on it – so it will not be mixed up on the field or in the locker rooms!

A custom mouthguards offer different levels of protection, depending on the sport you will be playing. If your sport does not use a hard stick or ball and where the head is not an intentional target – you can wear a slimmer mouthguard. For example in rugby and judo.

High-impact sports that do use a hard stick or ball – or where the head is a target – need a stronger mouthguard. For example, in hockey, lacrosse, boxing and martial arts. Bow Lane Dental also makes different types of protective guards should you clench or grind your teeth – and these are designed to be worn whilst you sleep.

What about shop sold mouthguards, aren’t they as good?

No. The “boil and bite” types provide a false sense of protection and make it hard to breathe and talk whilst in place. The recommendation of the British Dental Association, the Rugby Football Union and the English Hockey Association is that only custom-fit mouthguards should be worn.

What colours and designs do you have?

Your imagination is the limit. The most popular and cheaper designs are single colours but you can have strips, flags, favourite team’s colours or even opt to match your own sports strip.

You can try out some simple designs online here.

In what sports do you need to wear a mouthguard?

Football, wrestling, soccer, basketball, american football, boxing, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, skateboarding and martial arts to name the most common.

Can I wear a mouthguard if I have braces?

Yes, your dentist can design a mouthguard around your braces. It will not only protect the teeth but also prevent the inside of the lips and cheeks from becoming cut by the wires of the brace in the event of an impact to the face.

How to look after a mouthguard?

You should clean your mouthguard with cool water after each use. Once a week, you should give your guard a more thorough cleaning with a toothbrush and toothpaste and mouthwash. Dry the night guard thoroughly before placing it in its container. You could use special cleansing tablets, such as Retainer Brite. Most importantly, do not machine wash or place your mouthguard in the dishwasher. At all times, it should be at all times in your protective carrying case or your mouth.

How long does a mouthguard last?

This varies according to many factors, e.g. growth, usage etc. If you are a growing child, new teeth will come through meaning you would require a new mouthguard around once a year. Although the teeth and bones may be growing, the mouthguards are flexible, and can accommodate some movement. Older children and adults may not grow, but the mouthguard will wear down with use and should be checked annually by your dentist.

For advice on the most appropriate sports mouthguard for you see your dentist. Bow Lane Dental specialises in all types of protective guard and with our in-house laboratory can make them within a week. Please call 020 7236 3600 to find out which is most appropriate for you.

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