As September approaches and Mums and Dads start getting in the supplies for the new term it’s a good time to talk about mouth guards for sport.
If you’re lucky your son or daughter’s school offers custom made mouth guards made from a mould of the teeth. A couple of nurses or dentist will pop into school and line up the class to take their moulds and send them off to be made.
If you’re not so lucky then you either have to buy an off the shelf type or go to see your own dentist to have them custom made.
But why are sports mouth guards needed and does it matter if you boil and bite or custom make them?
Why do we need sports mouth guards?
Apart from the fact the school/sports club tell you to have one or you can’t play/participate what is the purpose of a mouth guard?
The main reason is to protect the teeth and jaws from impact injury. According to the American Dental Association more than 200,000 mouth injuries are prevented each year by wearing a sports mouth guard. The kind of injuries caused by trauma to the mouth can range from chipped and cracked teeth, root fracture, bone fracture (around teeth), teeth knocked backwards, pushed upwards/downwards or knocked out completely as well as cuts to the lips, cheeks and tongue . As permanent or Adult teeth are meant to last as long as we do it’s important to look after them!
Dental trauma can have long term consequences, sometimes not causing issues until later life. One commonly seen problem is loss of the blood supply and nerve of the tooth (tooth will start to go grey or black). Also large chips or breaks in the teeth will need to be fixed and this is more challenging in the younger patients.
Custom made or off the shelf?
With such an important piece of kit does it matter where you get it from? As with many things the more you invest the better the protection. Whilst off the shelf and boil and bite are appealing due to their affordability they don’t provide optimal protection.
Ideally a sports mouth guard should fit closely to the teeth and the overlying gums and jaw bone. The reason for this is the “force” from the impact is then spread away from the teeth to the top jaw. Anything that is not custom made won’t offer that level of protection. Also the more layers of protection there are the better.
What if you wear braces? – you need to either have a guard that fits over the brace (not ideal but better than nothing) and there are “brace-compatible” guards such as Shock Doctor, or have a custom one made with room for the tooth movement and braces.
I can understand that buying kit for school is not cheap, especially if your little angels have a tendency to lose things but the cost emotionally and fiscally of having to replace broken or missing teeth is a steeper price to pay. So invest in a good quality custom made sports guard and make sure they understand how important that bit of kit is – they may just take a bit more care of it!