Athletic activity poses a threat to teeth and orthodontic devices, especially in young patients. If you or a member of your family is active in sports, it’s essential to protect against harm with a specially-made sports mouth guard. Mouth guards are often overlooked as a part of sports equipment, but patients who use them are up to sixty times less likely to suffer oral injuries compared to those who don’t.
What type of mouth guard should I purchase?
Though there are literally thousands of mouth guard brands, most brands fall into three major categories: stock mouth guards, boil and bite mouth guards, and customized mouth guards.
Some points to consider when choosing a mouth guard include:
How much money is available to spend?
How often does the patient play sports?
What kind of sports are being played? (Basketball and baseball tend to cause the most oral injuries).
In light of these points, here is an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of mouth guard:
Stock mouth guards – These mouth guards can be bought directly off the shelf and immediately fitted into the mouth. They are 'one-size-fits-all', meaning that that the mouth guard doesn’t adjust. Stock mouth guards are very cheap, easy to fit, and quick to locate at sporting goods stores. Pediatric dentists favor this type of mouth guard least, as it provides minimal protection, obstructs proper breathing and speaking, and tends to be uncomfortable.
Boil and bite mouth guards – These mouth guards are usually made from thermoplastic and are easily located at most sporting goods stores. First, the thermoplastic must be immersed in hot water to make it pliable, and then it must be pressed on the teeth to create a custom mold. Boil and bite mouth guards are slightly more expensive than stock mouth guards, but tend to offer more protection, feel more comfortable in the mouth, and make talking and breathing while wearing them easier.
Customized mouth guards – These mouth guards offer the greatest degree of protection, and are custom-made by the dentist. First, the dentist makes an impression of the teeth using special material, and then the mouth guard is constructed over the mold. Customized mouth guards are more expensive and take longer to fit, but are more comfortable, orthodontically correct, and fully approved by the dentist.
Once you have selected which mouth guard will work for you or your child, here are some tips on keeping your mouth guard clean and working well:
Cleaning – Clean the mouth guard before and after every use with a toothbrush and toothpaste. This eliminates existing bacteria and makes the appliance feel clean and fresh.
Rinsing – Periodically, the mouth guard needs to be cleaned and rinsed with soap and lukewarm water to thoroughly eliminate any debris.
Storage – The best way to protect the mouth guard from harm is to keep it in a firm case when not in use. The case protects your device from being crushed or otherwise broken.
Replacement – A mouth guard eventually needs to be replaced after wear and tear diminishes its ability to protect teeth. It is important to carefully monitor the condition of the device and ask your dentist about the ideal time to obtain a new appliance.
If you have questions or concerns about choosing a mouth guard, please contact our office.