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Sports Guards

With the new year, there are many resolutions to be more active. So, I’d like to introduce you to sports guards, or mouthguards and mouth protectors (which are different names for the same thing). They are worn over teeth (generally the top) to protect them from blows to the face and head, helping to protect against broken teeth, cut lips or even to protect previous bridge work that has been done. The American Dental Association projects that one third of all dental injuries are sports related. The use of mouthguards can prevent more than 200,000 oral injuries each year.

This important piece of athletic equipment is not just for the football player or boxer – sports where the mouthguard is a mandated – but rather it’s for anyone participating in a sport that involves falls, body contact or flying equipment that could result in an injury to the mouth, including activities like basketball, wrestling, hockey, volleyball, soccer, baseball, skateboarding, mountain biking, and even gymnastics.

There are several types of mouthguards to choose from that range in price. The following list goes from least cost to most expensive:

  1. Stock mouthguard: The least expensive option, but these often need to be replaced midway through a playing season.
  2. Boil and bite guard: These guards are boiled in water and formed to the teeth by applying pressure. Again, they tend to wear out quickly and may need to be replaced during the sports season.
  3. Vacuum-formed guard: An impression is taken of the patient’s mouth, and then a mouth guard is fabricated to fit the impression of the teeth. Custom-made by a dentist.
  4. Pressure laminated guard: This type of mouth guard is thicker and provides protection against dental injury or maybe even a concussion. Again, impressions are taken of a patient’s mouth and a guard is fabricated to fit the impression of the teeth. These can be custom made by dentist, but are often sent to be made by a lab.

Most of all, don’t forget that the mouthguard still needs to be cleaned. Often times, after practices or games it is tossed into a gym bag allowing bacteria, yeast and fungi to form. The American Dental Association suggests cleaning it with toothbrush and toothpaste regularly to remove any built-up debris, then rinsing it with soapy water. And don’t forget to place it in a case that is vented to prevent bacteria growth.

As stated earlier, mouthguards do wear out. When you look at them they are smooth at the beginning, and if they develop pits or cracks in them, it provides a good place for bacteria to start growing and that means the guard needs to be replaced.

Submitted by Stacy, clinical assistant