Just as shoulder pads and shin guards are essential pieces of equipment for athletes, mouth guards are very important as well. Oral injuries are easier to sustain than you might think, from broken teeth to injuries to the lips, tongue, face, or jaw. These injuries can be prevented – or at least minimized – by a mouth guard.
Types of mouth guards
There are several types of sports guards available. They can be easily be found over-the-counter, as stock and boil-and-bite mouth guards. Though stock sports guards offer some protection and are the most affordable, they don’t fit very well since they come pre-formed. They can be bulky and make breathing and speaking difficult, which lowers their effectiveness.
Boil-and-bite sports guards can be molded to the mouth by being softened in hot water, then inserted into the mouth to change shape. Because they can be fitted to the mouth, they offer more comfort and protection than stock mouth guards, but the best-fitting type is a custom-fitted sports guard.
Custom-made sports guards are specially made by your dentist. They are the most expensive option, but provide the best in fit and comfort.
How sports guards are made
To make a custom sports guard, the dentist will take an impression of your teeth and cast the mouth guard over it. Once it has been completed, you can try it on so that your dentist can make sure that it fits correctly. It can be used immediately.
Who needs to wear sports guards?
These mouth guards are highly recommended for high-contact sports such as football, hockey, and boxing. Although sports like gymnastics and skateboarding have a lower level of risk for mouth injuries, sports guards are still recommended for these sports. Athletes are at risk for injuries such as chipped or broken teeth, fractured jaws, root damage to the teeth, fractured dental work, and lip and cheek injuries.
How long do sports guards last?
Because a good amount of pressure is placed on them with each wear (whether during a practice or a game), mouth guards naturally wear down over time. They should be replaced every season or every six months. Children and adolescents may need replacements more often since their mouths are still growing and changing.