About 13-39% of all dental injuries are sports-related. Most of these orofacial injuries occur in athletes who weren’t wearing a mouth guard, a fact that’s especially shocking since many studies verify that mouth guards prevent dental injuries.
In one of the most recent studies, researchers followed young athletes engaged in contact sports. They found that fewer than 8% of those wearing a mouth guard had a dental injury, while 48-60% of those who skipped the mouth guard sustained a dental problem.
High school students are required to wear mouth guards for high-risk, contact sports like field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, football, and wrestling. Yet the same protection isn’t officially required for basketball and baseball, and participation in those sports is responsible for the most dental injuries in 7-17 year olds.
It’s essential for parents — and the team here at Glow Orthodontics — to make sure that children and teens engaged in sports or other contact activities protect their teeth with the best mouth guard.
Most common sports-related dental injuries
The list of sports-related dental injuries affecting patients of all ages who participate in athletic activities begins with soft-tissue tears, scrapes, and deep bruises. These injuries run the gamut from mild to severe. Soft tissue damage usually happens when the impact of the injury forces teeth into the delicate gums and tissues lining the mouth.
More serious dental injuries sustained in athletes include cracks, chips, and fractures of the crowns and/or roots of teeth. Many young athletes suffer tooth intrusions, which occur when a tooth is forced into the gum. The loss of the front teeth is also common during sports injury.
How mouth guards protect your teeth from sports injuries
A mouth guard that is properly fitted to your mouth acts like a buffer that protects the soft tissues by keeping them away from the hard, sharp teeth. The materials used to make a mouth guard also cushion your teeth from a direct blow. As a result, mouth guards may prevent intrusions and knocked out teeth. Your upper and lower teeth are also protected from being rammed together.
When your mouth suffers an impact, the mouth guard redistributes the force of the blow equally throughout your mouth, so one or two teeth don’t bear the full intensity. This quality also protects your jaw from fractures.
To fully protect your teeth, the ideal mouth guard should be:
- Properly fitted to your mouth
- Made of resilient material
- Cover all the teeth in one arch (top or bottom)
- Stay in place securely and comfortably
- Physiologically compatible
- Easy to clean
It’s crucial to be sure that the mouth guard can absorb high-impact energy and redistribute the force upon impact.
Different types of mouth guards
When you visit us at Glow Orthodontics, we’ll make sure you have the best mouth guard for your needs. You can also find mouth guards in local stores, so it’s important to know the differences in the way each type of mouth guard protects your teeth.
There are three types of mouth guards:
Type I: Stock mouth guards
These are ready-to-ear and available at pharmacies, sporting goods stores or provided by your orthodontist. They’re the least expensive option, and wearing even an inexpensive mouth guard is much better than playing sports without a mouth guard. However, you should be aware that they come in limited sizes, and they aren’t custom fitted to your mouth. Stock mouth guards are the best option for patients wearing fixed orthodontic appliances and youths engaging in light or minimal contact sports.
Type II: Mouth-formed mouth guards
Also called boil-and-bite mouth guards, the material is immersed in hot water until it softens. Then you place the material between your teeth, bite down, and let the material mold to fit your mouth. This type of mouth guard is common but may vary in comfort, cost, and protection. Boil and bite mouth guards are never a consideration for patients wearing fixed orthodontic appliances.
Type III: Custom-made mouth guards
This type of mouth guard is custom-made, so we ensure it’s a good fit for your mouth. These mouth guards are also available in a variety of materials. We can recommend the material and thickness that’s best for your sport and dental risk. Custom mouth guards are best for athletes or sports enthusiasts who have completed orthodontic treatment to protect their beautiful new smiles.
We’re here to answer your questions about mouth guards and to help you get the best dental protection. Call Glow Orthodontics, or schedule an appointment online for a mouth guard consultation.