Many times on television, you may see athletes wearing strange mouth inserts that can be seen on their lips. Those seemingly unsightly fixtures are none other than sports mouth guards that can ensure the health of their pearly whites and their tongues, and are often mandatory during heavy-contact sports.
Athletic mouth guards are often referred to as “mouth protectors,” and can help the individual prevent:
- Broken teeth
- Tooth loss
- Nerve damage of the facial region or teeth
- Injury to the lips, tongue, and face
- Injury to the jaws and relating muscles
- Injury to tissues of the mouth area
Do I Need One?
For individuals whose professional life involves physical impact, or for those who engage in contact sports that carries risk of injury, mouth guards would be a great preventative measure to protect a smile. They can, and should be worn, by all ages who participate in such activities. Some more common sports that definitely need mouth guards include, but are not limited to:
- Extreme sports
- Water polo
All mouth protectors cover the upper teeth and softens the impact received, in an effort to minimize injury to the mouth and face area. Generally, there are 3 types of mouth protectors:
- Stock mouth guards: these are probably the least expensive form of mouth guards available. Stock protectors are already pre-shaped and pre-made and ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often times do not fit well, are bulky, and cause problems in breathing and talking during wear.
- Boil and bite mouth guards: this type is more commonly offered at sporting goods stores. They usually require boiling the mouth protector to soften the material, then inserted into the mouth form to the shape of the oral cavity. They are better fitting than stock mouth guards, but directions should be followed carefully to ensure the best fit possible.
- Custom fitted mouth guards: providing the best fit, custom fitted mouth guards can be obtained at your dentist. They are also the most expensive option, but can possibly provide the best protection.
Taking Care Of The Mouth Guard
Be sure to properly clean your mouth guard every time after wearing to ensure longevity and good oral health.
- Rinse before and after use.
- Brush and clean the mouth guard with a toothbrush and tooth paste.
- Periodically clean the mouth guard with cool soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
- Soak the mouth guard in mouth wash for a speedy, disinfecting rinse.
- Store and transport mouth guards in a well-ventilated container that is also sturdy and cannot be crushed.
- Do not leave the mouth guard in the sun or submerge in hot water.
- Check for wear and tear, as well as the fit and comfort level, of the mouth guard. This is important for children who are still growing.
- Replace as necessary.
Here are some tips that can maximize the effectiveness of a mouth guard in use:
- Make sure the mouth guard fits properly. If you have troubles breathing or talking with a mouth guard, it is most likely fitted wrong. It should also stay in one place at all times and not move around. An ill-fitting mouth guard, upon impact, can provide even more medical complications to the face and jaws.
- Choose a mouth guard that is resilient. The material should be tear-resistant, easy to clean, and comfortable to wear (example: it should not cut into the gums or the tongue).
- Get fitted at your dentist. While there are many commercial and over-the-counter mouth guards available today, it is best to get the optimal fit with your dentist. Besides, he or she knows your teeth and oral health best, and may give further useful suggestions.
- Get mouth protectors even if you have braces or other oral fixtures. A visit to the dentist for a customized mouth guard will solve the problem. Braces or other dental fixtures do not serve as protectors and may actually further cut up the mouth upon an impacting blow.
- Distinguish between mouth guards for sports and teeth grinding. Mouth guards intended to treat bruxism, or teeth grinding during sleep, are different than ones used in sports. They are not designed for external impact, so they will not have the same effect as sports mouth guards.
- Do not share mouth guards with your friend or family. Everyone has different structured mouths.
- Remove any mouth retainers or removable fixtures prior to sports. Mouth guards are usually not intended to be used concurrently with other dental fixtures unless directed by a dentist.