Even if you don’t participate in a traditionally “contact” sport, wearing a mouth guard can be imperative to protecting yourself from athletic-related accidents. Although it’s commonly believed that only rough sports like rugby, football, or hockey require the use of a mouth guard, most doctors recommend that an athlete participating in nearly any sport, if there is risk of being tripped or colliding with another person or structure, wear a mouth guard to ensure their safety. Such “safe” sports include gymnastics, soccer, or basketball.
Mouth guards provide a cushion between your gums and teeth, and are typically worn on over the top set of teeth. In addition to keeping teeth from being knocked out, mouth guards also prevent damage to the tongue and cheeks, and can help keep the jaw in place in case of a collision. Typically, unless your sport is boxing or rugby, a mouth guard is only necessary on the upper teeth, as they take the majority of impact in a crash. Mouth guards are especially important for people with braces, as a hard enough hit to the face could dislodge braces or push them against your cheek or gums and cut the inside of your mouth.
Which Mouth Guard is Right for Me?
There are three main types of mouth guards, all of which are typically made from a rubbery material that softens the blow from an accident.
Custom mouth guards are the most recommended, as they are created individually for you by your dentist. The dentist will take a mold of your mouth and shape a mouth guard to fit your teeth. These mouth guards are often the most comfortable, but are more expensive than other types of mouth guards.
Pre-made mouth guards can be bought at most pharmacies or sporting goods stores, and come in several size ranges that fit most mouths. They come ready to wear immediately, and are great options for individuals who don’t mind a little mouth discomfort for the sake of saving money. Pre-made mouth guards may be a good option for kids who may grow through sizes rapidly.
“Boil and Bite”
Boil and bite mouth guards, like pre-made mouth guards, can be bought at most pharmacies and sporting goods stores, but they may provide a slightly better fit than a pre-made mouth guard. After softening in boiling water, the mouth guard is inserted into the mouth to be “fitted”, which allows the guard to mold to your mouth shape. Boil and bite mouth guards are perfect for athletes who want the comfortable fit of a custom mouth guard without spending the money.
Take Care of Your Mouth(guard)
Replace your mouth guard as soon as it begins to show signs of wear, or if it doesn’t fit properly. This may be especially important for kids, who may quickly outgrow their mouth guards. Mouth guard maintenance is simple, but requires a few essential steps:
- Keep your mouth guard clean – your dentist can give you a cleanser for a custom mouth guard, or over-the-counter disinfecting solutions can be found at most sporting goods stores and pharmacies.
- Bring your mouth guard to your dental checkups so that your dentist can ensure that it fits properly.
- Brush your teeth after each use to make sure that bacteria don’t build up from wearing your mouth guard frequently.
- Store your mouth guard in a dry, vented container to prevent bacteria buildup.
With proper care and application, your mouth guard can help keep you safe during athletics, and keep your teeth where they belong: in your mouth.