April is National Facial Protection Month so today I am going to talk about the importance of wearing a mouthguard. Over the years I have been an Orthodontist, I have seen many of my patients sustain sports injuries. The use of mouthguards greatly decreases the severity of these dental injuries. Nothing is worse than seeing a patient in pain because he/she was hit in the mouth during a sporting event and to know the trauma could have been prevented if she/she had worn a mouthguard. In addition, it is awful to have to explain to a parent why his/her child is going to need to see a dentist for extra dental treatment due to the trauma the teeth have sustained from the sports injury.
The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports dental injuries are the most common type of facial injury sustained during sports participation. These injuries can occur during contact sports like football and in non-contact activities like gymnastics and skateboarding. In addition, the Foundation estimates as many as three million teeth are knocked out in youth sporting events and athletes who will not wear mouthguards are sixty times more likely to damage their teeth. Mouthguards can prevent not only injury to the teeth, but also injury to jaws and soft tissue in and around the mouth (lips, tongue, inner lining of your cheek).
There are three types of mouthguards you can use while participating in sports. One type is the ready-made mouthguard. It is pre-formed and is ready to wear out of the box. This type of mouthguard can be bought at many sporting goods stores and they are very common. The second type is boil and bite. This mouthguard is softened in hot water and then you adapt it to your teeth. It is slightly more custom than the ready-made mouthguard. The final type is a custom-made mouthguard. You can buy this type of mouthguard at your dentist or orthodontist’s office. They have the best fit because they are made specifically for you from a mold of your teeth. No matter the type of mouthguard you choose, it needs to have some specific qualities. It needs to be resilient, tear-resistant, and comfortable. In addition, it needs to fit properly in order for it to protect your teeth, be durable so that it can be used day after day, easy to clean, and allow for normal speech and breathing while it is being worn.
Just like any other sports equipment, mouthguards need to be cared for. Before and after each use, rinse the mouthguard off with water because it will get dirty while you are wearing it. If it is not being used, place your mouthguard in a protective container. This will keep it clean and prevent it from being lost or damaged. Periodically the mouthguard should be cleaned in soapy water thoroughly. Your mouth is full of bacteria and you want to clean these off your mouthguard. Finally, check for wear and replace the mouthguard as needed.
I have heard many reasons for not wearing a mouthguard. They include: not being aware of the importance of the mouthguard, the cost, and the fact that they are not a required piece of equipment. But all of us orthodontists at Westrock Orthodontics agree mouthguards save smiles! Whether you have braces or not, mouthguards are necessary. All Westrock locations have mouthguards available. If you play a sport, at your next visit to Westrock, just ask for a mouthguard and we would be more than happy to give you one. Your smile and dental health are important to us!