Posted July 25, 2011
Whether you are a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, chances are that you may fall or run into another player and seriously injure your mouth. The best solution for preventing an injury is to wear a protective mouth guard.
Each year at least 300,000 American adults and children experience some type of mouth injury while engaged in contact sports, including football, softball, rugby, martial arts, soccer, ice or field hockey, lacrosse, basketball or boxing. And there are several other non-contact sports and recreational activities that have high incidences of mouth injuries, such as gymnastics, skating, skateboarding and mountain biking.
The benefits of wearing a mouth guard are numerous, affirms the Academy of General Dentistry. The most important being the protection it affords in preventing traumatic injury, such as a fractured jaw, broken teeth and possible nerve damage, neck injury or a concussion.
Mouth Guard Options
A mouth guard usually is designed to fit over the upper teeth, but if you have braces or a fixed bridge, your dentist may design one for the lower teeth as well. Three types of mouth guard styles are available, each providing a different level of injury protection:
- Stock – Considered the lowest-cost option, it is readily available at most sports stores; offers the least amount of protection due to limited fit; often interferes with breathing and speaking because you must clench your jaw to keep it in place
- Mouth-formed – Comes in acrylic or boil-and-bite
- Acrylic – Material is poured into a shell that fits over the teeth and molded to fit in place
- Boil-and-bite – Material is softened in hot water, placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth by finger, tongue or jaw bite
- Custom-made – Created from an impression of your teeth taken by your dentist; designed in the dental office or at a professional dental lab; comfortable fit; offers the ultimate mouth protection
Mouth Guard Care
Just as with your teeth and gums, you need to take time to clean and care for your mouth guard each time it is worn. Here are some recommendations:
- Wash with soap and rinse in cool water to keep it clean
- Soak in mouthwash before storing to keep it fresh
- Store in a ventilated storage box to keep it dry
- Avoid exposure to heat, such as setting it in direct sunlight or leaving it in a hot vehicle
- Don’t lend it out or wear another people’s mouth guard
Whether you play competitive sports or participate in recreational activities, remember to wear a mouth guard to prevent serious injuries!
Do you, your family members or friends regularly wear a protective mouth guard when engaging in sports or recreational activities? – Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group