Dental injuries are the most common type of injuries to the face, and 60% of facial injuries occur during sports practice. An athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer damage to the teeth when not wearing a mouth guard.
A mouth guard is a flexible piece of plastic that fits around the upper teeth and protects them from injury. In addition to protecting against direct damage to the teeth, by cushioning the lips and cheeks from the teeth or orthodontic appliances, a mouth guard helps prevent laceration and bruising. A mouth guard can also prevent serious injuries caused when the lower jaw is jammed into the upper jaw, including concussion, cerebral hemorrhage, jaw fractures and neck injuries.
There are several types of mouth guards. When choosing one, remember that a mouth guard should be flexible, comfortable, durable, odorless, tasteless, and easy to clean. A mouth guard should fit properly so that it protects your mouth, but does not interfere with breathing or speaking.
The least expensive mouth guard is a stock one sold in sporting goods stores. They come in small, medium, and large and are held in place by biting down. The disadvantage of these mouth guards is that the fit is not adjustable and may not protect your teeth as well as a more fitted model would. Holding these guards in place requires that you bite down, so they can interfere with speech and breathing.
The most commonly used type of mouth guard is also sold in sporting goods stores. They’re called “boil and bite mouth guards,” because they’re softened in boiling water and then formed to fit your mouth. This type of mouth guard costs a little more than the stock types, but because it is formed around your teeth, it fits and protects your mouth better. A dentist can also make you a custom mouth guard.
Whatever type of mouth guard you choose, you should wear it for any activity in which there is a chance of contact with other participants or hard surfaces. Mouth guards aren’t just for football and hockey. If you or your child rides a bicycle, participates in gymnastics, volleyball, skateboarding, or any sport or activity in which a facial or dental injury might occur, a mouth guard is a necessity. Half of all dental injuries can be prevented, and a mouth guard is an important aid in protecting your teeth, face and mouth.