Protecting Your Oral Health
Without proper mouth protection, sports injuries to the jaw and mouth can result in painful issues and costly dental restorations. Sports mouth guards that are custom fit by a dentist protect your mouth from impact and leave your smile intact.
Mouth Guards for Sports
For amateur and professional athletes alike, mouthguards are an important piece of protective equipment. They’re typically made from thin, clear plastic that fits over the teeth. Most often, a mouth guard fits over the top teeth only, although if you have orthodontics or restorations on your bottom teeth, you may need another guard.
Your dentist may recommend that you wear a mouth guard while playing sports in a competitive or high-impact environment, such as hockey, basketball, gymnastics, football, baseball, or mountain biking.
Although many people wear mouth guards to protect their teeth (especially the front teeth), they can also prevent many other injuries. In addition to protection from impact or injury, mouth guards can prevent against teeth grinding and clenching during a game or practice. Having a guard for grinding can relieve and prevent long-term jaw pain, and may also prevent TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders from developing. Finally, a guard may protect your head and brain, reducing the risk of concussions when impacts are delivered to the lower jaw.
Types of Mouth Guards
There are several types of mouth guards that athletes can use. Since most sports involve a lot of movement and activity, it’s important to consider the comfort, fit, and function of each type of mouth protection. You’ll want a solution that allows you to play without focusing on your mouth.
Professional Dentist-Made Mouth Guards
Dentists offer professional dental guards for playing sports. Mouth guards that are offered by dentists are built from an impression of your teeth, ensuring a fully customized fit. You’ll usually need two dental appointments: one to have the impression made, and one to have the final product fit onto your teeth and checked by your dentist. You can typically choose the colour of your mouth guard and will receive a case to keep it in when you aren’t using it.
Over the Counter Mouth Guards
Another option is over the counter mouth guards that are sold in drug stores and online. These are often referred to as “boil and bite” mouth guards because they are formed to the teeth using hot water. Over the counter mouthguards are often less expensive, but they need to be replaced more often than professional dentist-grade mouth guards.
Stock Mouth Guards
Stock mouth guards are not designed for your specific teeth. Instead, they come ready to wear without any customization. Although they’re very inexpensive, the size and shape of stock mouth guards often makes them less comfortable to wear. They may also impede breathing and speaking, which can be a challenge depending on the sport you play.
Other Dental Guards & Devices
Dentists also offer other types of dental appliances and mouth protectors. For example, if you grind your teeth at night (a condition known as bruxism), your dentist may recommend a night guard. Other dental appliances can be used as part of a treatment plan for snoring or sleep apnea.
Dental Mouth Guard FAQ
When should I replace a mouth guard?
Most athletes will need to replace their mouth guards every few years. You can extend the life of your mouthguard by taking good care of it. Check your guard for signs of wear, including cracks or pits.
Mouth guards for children may need to be replaced more often as the teeth grow and shift. Most children will require a new mouth guard about once a year. Be sure to schedule regular dental appointments to check the fit of a customized mouth guard.
How do I care for my mouth guard?
Mouth guards need to be taken care of well to prevent buildups of bacteria, mould, and yeast from causing damage to the guard or to your teeth. Be sure to keep it in its protective case when it’s not in your mouth and brush it with toothpaste after every wear. Remember that rinsing with water is not enough to remove the built-up bacteria.
How do I know if my mouth guard fits correctly?
The fit often depends on the type of mouthguard you select. If you’ve purchased a custom fit mouthguard from a dental clinic, your dentist will check the fit at your second appointment.
If you’ve purchased over the counter or stock mouth guards, you’ll need to perform your own fit test. First, follow all the instructions carefully on boil and bite guards to ensure the plastic moulds to your teeth. Once you have it shaped, put the mouthguard in and open your mouth wide. Your mouth guard should stay in place on your teeth and shouldn’t drop into your mouth. You should also be able to drink, breathe, and speak easily with your mouth guard on.
Protect Your Dental Health
If you’re an athlete and you’d like to learn more about custom-fit mouth guards, you can use the 123Dentist network of dentists in Canada to find one near you. With a well-fitting mouth protector in place, you can stay focused on the game.