Whilst it goes without saying that combat and contact sports are prone to causing injury, dental trauma is often the result of accidents from a wide range of sports and recreational activities. If you or your child play a sport or take part in a recreational activity that has risks of being injured, a sports mouthguard should be an essential piece of your kit. Wearing a sports mouthguard helps avoid the risk of dental injury and the need for costly restorative dental treatments.
What is a sports mouthguard?
A sports mouthguard is a shield that protects the teeth, mouth, and jaw against trauma during sports and activities. They are made from thermoplastic material and work by cushioning against impact and dispersing the force from collisions and accidents.
Most sports mouthguards cover only the upper teeth but some protect both the upper and lower teeth. This type of mouthguard is useful for people who play sports where the risk of damage to the lower jaw or mouth is high and for those with braces.
Who needs to use a sports mouthguard?
Anyone who plays a sport that has a chance of collision or takes part in an activity that carries the risk of getting injured needs to wear a sports mouthguard. Mouthguards are certainly not limited to professionals or reserved for use during competitions. They should be used any time there is a risk of dental injuries.
It’s important for children to wear a mouthguard even if their school or sports club hasn’t made it compulsory. Protecting your teeth with a mouthguard should be as natural as putting on a helmet when you ride a bike.
Sports and activities that require the use of a mouthguard include but are not limited to:
- Aussie rules
- American football
- Water polo
- Martial arts
What can a mouthguard protect against?
Mouthguards can’t guarantee protection against all injuries but they can give substantial protection to your teeth, mouth, head, and dental devices.
Sports mouthguards protect against:
- Chipped teeth
- Broken teeth
- Lost teeth
- Damage to the soft tissues of the mouth (gums, lips, tongue, inside cheeks)
- Damage to dental devices (braces, implants, bridges, crowns)
Sports mouthguards can also help protect against fractures to the jaw and facial bones and help to avoid a concussion.
What types of mouthguards are available?
There are three main types of mouthguards:
1. Generic mouthguards
Generic mouthguards are available in stores and online. They are pre-formed and ready to wear but their efficiency is limited due to their generic sizing. Generic mouthguards usually don’t fit well and can come off during sports or activities.
2. Boil and bite mouthguards
Boil and bite guards are a step up from generic guards but they are still not ideal. You first soften a boil and the bite guard in hot water so that when you insert it, it fits better around your teeth.
3. Custom-fitted mouthguards
Custom-fitted mouthguards are the most effective type of mouthguard. This is because a dentist takes an impression of your teeth and makes a guard specifically for your teeth. Custom-fitted mouthguards offer the highest protection, more comfort, and less interference with your speech and breathing.
How are custom-fitted mouthguards made?
Custom-fitted mouthguards can only be made by dental professionals. At your first appointment, your dentist takes an impression of your teeth using a special mould that captures the unique contours of your mouth. Your dentist determines the best thickness for your mouthguard so that it provides the best protection for your teeth. Then, they send this impression to a dental lab for your mouthguard to be made. Once your mouthguard is ready, you return to the dentist for a fitting. Your dentist checks the fit and makes sure that it isn’t compromising your bite. When they are happy with the fit, you can start using your new mouthguard.
How long will my mouthguard last?
How long your custom-fitted mouthguard lasts depends on how often you use it, how well you look after it, and whether your teeth change. As a rule of thumb, so long as there are no changes to your teeth and you look after it well, your sports mouthguard should last several seasons. We recommend that you replace your mouthguard every year to offer maximum protection. Bring your mouthguard with you when you visit your dentist for your routine check-ups so that they can assess the condition of your mouthguard. Always wash your mouthguard after each use. When not in use, keep your mouthguard in its case or box to prevent it from getting dirty or broken.
How to clean your mouthguard:
1. Rinse your mouthguard in cold water as soon as you remove it from your mouth.
2. Clean it under running water using a soft toothbrush and dishwashing liquid.
3. Rinse it thoroughly.
4. Leave it to air-dry in a safe place.
5. Store it in its case or box away from heat and direct sunlight.
If you would like a custom-fitted sports mouthguard for you or your child, Dental On York can help. Call us on (02) 9299 5504 or book your appointment online.