Sports mouthguards are used in sports and activities where there is a risk of impact to the face or head, but do they really protect your teeth? In a word, yes. A well-fitting sports mouthguard can not only protect your teeth but can also help protect your tongue, cheeks, lips, jaw, and head from injury.
A sports mouthguard is a plastic shield that fits over your teeth to protect them and the surrounding soft tissue and bone from impact. People wear mouthguards when they participate in sports or activities with the potential for collision or falling.
According to the Australian Dental Association, sports injuries are responsible for almost 40% of dental trauma, but fewer than 40% of Australians wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports. A study of dental trauma in rugby union players revealed that mouthguards significantly reduce the risk of complications from dental injuries.
What type of mouthguard is best?
Standard pre-formed and boil and bite mouthguards are widely available in sports stores and pharmacies; however, they don’t provide adequate protection. The Australian Dental Association and dentists worldwide recommend using custom-fitted mouthguards. A custom-fitted mouthguard is made from an impression of your teeth and is designed to fit your mouth exactly.
The main benefits of a custom-fitted mouthguard over standard mouthguards are:
- They fit better and are less likely to fall out
- They are more comfortable to wear
- It’s easier to breathe and speak
- They offer more effective protection
How does a sports mouthguard protect your teeth?
Mouthguards help prevent both cosmetic and severe oral injuries, including:
Broken or chipped teeth
In the best case, a fractured tooth will be unsightly, but a severely broken tooth can penetrate the gum and damage the underlying bone. This can result in needing complex and expensive reconstructive treatment. Custom-fitted sports mouthguards create a barrier between your teeth and any hard object, helping to prevent broken teeth.
Tooth displacement is when a tooth is knocked out of its usual position. Custom-fitted sports mouthguards fit closely around your teeth and help prevent any unwanted movement. If you receive a knock to the mouth and are wearing a sports mouthguard, your teeth are more likely to stay in their correct position.
Dentists are all too familiar with people who have knocked out a tooth when playing sports without a mouthguard. In many cases, the loss wouldn’t have happened if they had been wearing a mouthguard. The protection a sports mouthguard provides reduces the risk of tooth loss and having to endure the process of replanting the lost tooth or undergoing dental implant surgery.
Soft tissue damage
A custom-fitted sports mouthguard will help protect the delicate tissues in your mouth from injury. The sudden impact from falls and collisions can cause you to bite your tongue, lips, and inside cheeks. A sports mouthguard acts as a buffer between your teeth and the soft tissues of your mouth, helping to prevent these painful injuries.
Neck and jaw injuries
The sudden force of being hit in the mouth can cause jaw injuries and damage to the neck. A custom-fitted sports mouthguard can help protect against injuries such as jaw fractures and dislocations. The mouthguard’s ability to absorb and dissipate some of the force of an impact can also help avert damage to the neck.
Damage to braces or other dental devices
If you wear braces, you are more susceptible to dental injury when playing sports and participating in some activities. A custom mouthguard will prevent soft tissue injuries from your braces as well as damage to your teeth and braces. Custom mouthguards also protect against damage to other dental devices such as implants, bridges, and crowns.
A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury that results from a blow to the head, such as those that can occur in contact sports. The effects of a concussion can include dizziness, headaches, and problems with memory, balance, and concentration. A custom-fitted mouthguard can help reduce the risk and severity of concussion by absorbing and dissipating some of the force of a blow to the head.
When should I wear a mouthguard?
Anyone who takes part in a sport or activity that carries the risk of collision, being struck, or falling should wear a mouthguard. Most mouthguards protect the upper teeth, as they are more likely to be damaged in an accident. However, if you participate in sports or activities that have a high risk of impact to the mouth or have braces, a mouthguard that also protects the lower teeth might be more suitable. Players of sports that have a higher risk of injuries, such as football and rugby, may also require a thicker, more protective mouthguard. Custom-fitted mouthguards are made by dental professionals who can help you determine the level of protection you or your child needs.
The Dental Family Beaumaris can create a custom-fitted mouthguard that will provide the best possible protection. Call 03 9589 4400 or contact us to book an appointment with our friendly and experienced team.