This time of year means getting back into full-swing at school for many families. From backpacks to binders and everything in-between, people have probably already bought most of the things their child needs in the classroom. Some families are also buying items their children will need outside of the classroom as well – specifically, on the football field. And one of these items is among the most important pieces of protective equipment they’ll buy.
We’re talking about the athletic mouthguard. It may seem like an innocuous piece of protection, but estimates have shown that mouthguards prevent tens of thousands of tooth, jaw, and soft-tissue injuries every year in high schools and colleges. Keep in mind that your child doesn’t have to participate in a contact sport to be a-risk of a tooth or jaw injury, either. Non-contact sports such as volleyball and gymnastics can lead to these types of injuries as well and can be prevented by wearing a mouthguard.
Types of Mouthguards and the Right one for Your Child?
Essentially, there are three types of mouthguards available. Each has its own benefits and limitations and offers varying degrees of protection.
Stock Mouthguards. Ready-to-wear right out of the packaging and very inexpensive, these mouthguards can be bought for just a few dollars. The downside to them is that they don’t usually fit very well and are bulky – often making it difficult for mouth breathing and swallowing.
Boil and Bite Mouthguards. These mouthguards are available at just about any sporting goods store or department store with a sporting goods section. They typically fit better than stock mouthguards but can be tricky to form around braces and irregular teeth. These mouthguards are boiled until soft and then placed on the teeth (typically the upper teeth) and are formed to their contour.
Custom-fitted Mouthguards. Of the three major mouthguard options, these are the most preferable. Yes, they are slightly more expensive than the other two, but custom mouthguards offer the greatest amount of protection and the most accurate fit to your mouth and teeth.
Benefits of a Properly-Fitted Mouthguard
A mouthguard that fits properly isn’t just important for protecting your teeth and jaw – it can be effective at protecting any investments made in your mouth as well, such as braces and other dental work. An impact to the front or side of the face could easily damage brackets or other orthodontics. A properly-fitted mouthguard also gives the wearer a nice barrier between braces and soft tissues (cheeks and lips) diminishing the chances of a soft tissue injury.
Also – if you have a retainer, or any other removable appliance that you wear during the day, you must take it out during any contact sports. Some sports leagues require participants to these items even if the sport is non-contact, so be sure you know the rules before stepping onto the court, field, etc.
Tips on Caring for Your Mouthguard
It may seem like a small piece of equipment, but mouthguards really do require care to ensure they last long and protect you to the fullest extent possible. Caring for your mouthguard should include:
- Rinsing before and after each use
- Occasionally cleaning it in cool, soapy water followed by a thorough rinse
- Keeping your mouthguard in a vented plastic container
- Avoiding leaving your mouthguard in the sun or hot water for prolonged periods of time
- Inspecting your mouthguard regularly for signs of wear and damage and replacing as needed
- Keep moughtguard in a safe place away from pets , especially dogs.
We’re here if you need some advice about choosing a mouthguard that will give the best protection possible. Regardless of whether or not you’re an existing patient of ours, we encourage you to give us a call and let us help you find the right mouthguard that will keep your teeth and jaw safe. Or, if you know you need a custom mouthguard, call us and set up an appointment today.