April is National Facial Protection Month! Did you know that dental injuries are the most common sports related injury? These injuries range from bruises to loss of your tooth to a broken jaw. Experts estimate that mouthguards prevent 200,000 oral injuries each year. This sounds like a great success until you realize that there are over 5 MILLION teeth knocked out as a result of sports accidents each year!
In football, where mouthguards are mandatory, only 0.07% of injuries involved teeth. Contrast that with basketball where 34% of all reported injuries involved the teeth or mouth. There is also mounting evidence that certain types of mouthguards may decrease the chance of a concussion in contact sports. It’s clear that mouthguards are an important piece of equipment for almost every athlete.
So what should you look for in a mouthguard for yourself or your child?
- Comfortable-a mouthguard is only effective when it’s being worn. A good fitting mouthguard will have a minimal effect on breathing and speech and will not easily fall off the teeth or out of the mouth
- Durable-Mouthguards lose their effectiveness if they are torn or if the material gets too thin
- Easy to Clean
- Protective-usually mouthguards will only cover the upper teeth. Some special circumstances, such as having braces, may require a different type of mouthguard.
If you are buying a mouthguard for a child, another thing to remember is that children are often influenced by their sports idols. They may see their favorite player chewing on a mouthguard while on the sidelines and imitate him or her. This type of behavior shortens the effective lifespan of the mouthguard. It is best to stress that a mouthguard is a piece of equipment and should be treated with the same care that is expected for other sports equipment.
There are three main types of mouthguards on the market today. “Boil and Bite” mouthguards are heated to soften the material and then placed in the mouth and bitten into to semi customize them, “Stock” mouthguards are purchased ready to wear out of the package, and “Custom” mouthguards are made by a dentist from on a model of your mouth. Let’s take a closer look at each of these types:
Boil and Bite Mouthguards
- Most frequently used because they are the least expensive option
- The fitting process often reduces the thickness of the material to a level that provides no protection against injury
- Less comfortable and often significantly interferes with breathing and/or speech
- Often does not cover back teeth—the area most essential for lessening concussions
- Many athletes modify them for comfort by cutting or trimming off pieces which further decreases protection
- Feel bulky and interfere with breathing and/or speech
- Must be held in place by biting down on it. The constant biting pressure causes this type to break down more quickly than other types.
- Offer little to no actual protection according to experts
- Offer little to no adjustment of the appliance
- Provide a better fit that causes less interference with breathing and speech
- Thickness of the appliance is more controlled. Thickness is an important factor in cushioning blows to the head and preventing concussions
- Dentist can adjust areas for comfort without sacrificing protection
- More expensive because of the steps involved in making them and the material used, so they are the least often purchased
Mouthguards are an example of getting what you pay for. Though the cost of a custom mouthguard seems high, the cost of treating a tooth injury is often 20 times the cost of a custom mouthguard. And remember, once a tooth is injured, it is injured for life. With the proper care, a custom mouthguard will last longer than its counterparts and will provide significantly more protection. Give the gift of a healthy smile for a lifetime!
If you need a mouthguard for sports or any other need, please call my office at 440-960-1940 or contact me through the contact section on my website at www.drjrobb.com You can also ask me questions on facebook at www.facebook.com/drjenniferrobb