Are Sports Mouthguards Necessary?
Sports mouthguards are completely necessary if you wish to maintain your teeth while participating in a contact activity.
Dental injuries are the #1 type of facial injury sustained during participation in athletic sports. Victims of total tooth avulsions (knocked out teeth) who do not have teeth properly preserved or replanted may face lifetime dental costs of $10,000 – $15,000 per tooth, countless hours at the dentist, and the possibility to develop other dental problems such as periodontal disease, malocclusion, or collapsed bite.
It is estimated by the American Dental Association (ADA) that sports mouthguards prevent almost 200,000 injuries each year in high school and college football alone.
A properly fitted sports mouthguard must be protective, comfortable, resilient, tear resistant, odorless, tasteless, not bulky, cause little to no interference to speaking and breathing, and have excellent retention, fit, and proper thickness in critical areas.
Types of Sports Mouthguards
Sports mouthguards come in a few varieties. These include the following:
-Stock Sports Mouthguards. This mouthguard is typically the least expensive of the mouthguards. It is readily available in most sporting goods stores. Their prices range from a few dollars to about 25-30 dollars maximum. These sports mouthguards are ready to be used right out of the package. This type of sports mouthguard has some serious drawbacks. They tend to be quite bulky and lack any real retention. These will therefore interfere with speech as well as breathing. These mouthguards are often modified by the user further reducing protection and retention. This sports mouthguard is the least amount of protection.
-Boil and Bite Sports Mouthguards. This is the most common type of sports mouthguard in use today. These are also available at most sporting goods and drug stores and are also considered fairly inexpensive. These are a giant step up from the stock sports mouthguards. These tend to fit far better since they are shaped by each athlete’s mouth and teeth. Hot water is all that is needed to adjust the plastic comfortably around the teeth and gums. These sports mouthguards are made from a thermoplastic material that is immersed in
boiling water and then formed in the mouth using biting, finger, and tongue pressure. Even this can be a challenging task for some so it may be best to contact your dentist when using even these to ensure they fit properly and cover the teeth sufficiently for protection. These sports mouthguards come in only a few stock sizes so they may not fit all participants the same. Many studies have shown that these boil and bite sports mouthguards do not adequately cover all the teeth in a high percentage of high school and collegiate athletes.
-Custom Fit Sports Mouthguards. These sports mouthguards are custom designed and fit just for each individual athlete. These are available thru your dentist. The entire process takes about one week to complete. The initial visit will include taking an impression of the upper teeth. This allows the dentist to create a model of your teeth which is then sent off to a dental laboratory. The laboratory technician will make a custom sports mouthguard adjusting it to each athetes preferences and needs and still being fully protective. The sports mouthguard should cover all teeth on the upper arch to be considered to be offering adequate protection. The major advantages to a custom nightguard include:
-Thinner material to allow for better breathing while maintaining the protection.
-Longer lasting. While custom sports mouthguards will cost more it will last a significantly longer time than the
other versions mentioned earlier.
-Personalized. You may choose your color so that you know it’s yours, or team colors/logos. You can also have your name imbedded in the sports mouthguard (a good example of this is the proform sports mouthguards) so that it can be readily identified. You do not want to mistakenly put someone elses sports mouthguard into your mouth!
-More hygienic. the higher quality material is less likely to embed bacteria within your sports mouthguard.
Safety, Safety, Safety
With an increased prevalence of concussions in sports these days athletes sometimes forget a well made custom mouthguard will offer increased protection against
concussions as well. Whatever type of sports mouthguard is chosen it is important to wear it at all times when playing. Many athletes do not keep them in their mouths and this is when injuries occur. At first it may seem uncomfortable but if an athlete begins wearing it at a young age they soon do not even realize they are using a sports mouthguard. Once you get used to it, it becomes second nature to them.
Enjoy your activities but stay safe from injuries especially dental ones!