We recommend athletic mouth guards for all of our sports active patients. The mouth guard is a rubbery or plastic appliance typically covering the teeth in the upper arch. It acts to cushion any traumatic blow to the teeth and redistributes the remaining force over a much larger surface, thereby minimizing the potential for tooth fracture or loss due to traumatic injury. In addition, due to its smooth outer surface, soft tissue injuries (cuts and bruises) to the lips, cheeks, and tongue caused by the incisal edges of the teeth or orthodontic appliances can be significantly reduced or eliminated. Current research indicates the athletic mouth guard can substantially diminish the concussive effects of certain head injuries as well.
Dental injuries are the most common type of facial injury in sports and can occur at any age. Some children exhibit the beginning of eruption of the permanent teeth as early as 5 years of age. Parents should recognize that an injury to the permanent dentition can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to initially restore, and will usually require multiple recurring treatments throughout the patient’s lifetime. The expense of a quality mouth guard is incidental compared to the potential cost and emotional distress of a dental injury.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), more than 200,000 oral injuries are prevented each year by mouth guard usage, yet over 80% of children do not utilize mouth guards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them. We believe athletic mouth guards should be a required piece of athletic equipment for all children participating in any activity involving body or equipment contact. Sports such as football, lacrosse, hockey, basketball, baseball, skateboarding, and soccer represent a particularly high risk of dental injury.
Typically there are 3 types of sports mouth
guards available to the athlete:
Stock mouth guards
– these are the least expensive mouth guard and are available in most sporting goods stores. Because they are pre-formed and ready to wear, they are usually poor fitting and do not adequately contact the teeth and soft tissue of the mouth resulting in reduced protection from injury. In addition, they are frequently bulky, uncomfortable, and may make talking and breathing more difficult.
Boil and bite mouth guards
– these mouth guards are also available at most sporting goods stores. They too come in pre-formed shapes that can be altered by heating in boiling water, then biting into the softened material to obtain a more customized fit. While offering a better fit than the stock mouth guard, unless the directions are accurately followed the fit and result may be no better. In addition, these mouth guards are very thin, offer minimal protection, and are quickly chewed through or deformed by the user.
Custom-made mouth guards
– these mouth guards are individually designed and fabricated by a dentist or professional dental lab. These are the mouth guards typically worn by professional athletes. An impression is made of your teeth and the dentist or dental lab constructs the mouth guard over the model of your teeth. These mouth guards provide the greatest comfort and maximum protection due to the accuracy of the fit.
Consistent with our desire to prevent dental injury, we recommend and offer custom-made mouth guards to all our patient athletes. We provide complimentary custom-made guards as part of our standard of care for any sports-minded patients under our orthodontic care.