An athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer from mouth injuries when not wearing a mouthguard. Sports-related dental injuries varying from tooth loss to jaw fractures are prevalent and can have irreversible long-term consequences. When it comes to mouth protection, a mouthguard is a vital piece of athletic gear. It is highly advised to regularly use mouthguards in football, boxing, rugby, cricket, hockey, basketball, baseball, martial arts, soccer, wrestling, rugby, and all other contact sports.
An estimate of 256 studies showed that the number of dental injuries during these sports is significantly higher in those without mouthguards. Common injuries include broken, lost, or chipped teeth, gum and tongue laceration, and dislocated jaws. It is necessary to wear a professionally made mouthguard whenever you engage in sports especially those with physical contact or with moving objects.
Mouthguards help buffer an impact that reduces the rate and severity of concussions. An effective mouthguard should remain in place while not hindering speech or breathing. It should provide maximum protection and be comfortable to wear.
Choose a mouthguard that:
✓ is durable and tear-resistant;
✓ is easy to clean;
✓ fits perfectly;
✓ does not restrict speech or breathing.
3 Types of mouthguards
1. Custom-fitted – These are dentist-made and are exact-fitting mouthguard from a cast model of the patient’s teeth impression using a vacuum or pressure-formed thermoplastic material. While they are more expensive than the store-bought variety, they provide the greatest comfort and protection. This type is highly recommended and is believed to be the most effective.
2. Boil-and-bite – The plastic mouthguard shell is boiled in water for 10-45 seconds, cooled under tap water and the person bites onto the mouthguard to help it take the shape of their mouth. The process of biting down onto the softened lining can decrease the fitting accuracy and therefore its effectiveness and durability. Compared to a custom-made mouthguard, the fit is not as precise and may be somewhat bulkier which makes it uncomfortable to wear.
3. Ready-made – These are made of rubber or polyvinyl and are held in place by clenching teeth together. These are ready-to-wear mouthguards available over the counter at sports shops. While these are the cheapest, they also offer the least amount of protection, are bulky, fits poorly, and may interfere with speaking or breathing. They are available in various sizes and shapes, but cannot be adjusted to fit your mouth.
Caring for Mouthguards
To get the best out of a mouthguard, proper caring is a must. As they protect you, they must also be protected. Here are some of the ways to suitably take care of your mouthguards:
✓ Rinse your mouthguard under cold water before and after every use, then air it dry.
✓ Do not chew on or cut pieces off your mouthguard.
✓ Store your mouthguard in a firm, perforated plastic container, immersed in water and away from extreme heat.
✓ Do not handle or try to wear someone else’s mouthguard.
✓ Bring your mouthguard to each dental visit.
✓ Regularly inspect for tears or holes which can irritate the mouth and weaken the mouthguard. If you notice any, replace it immediately.
Like any other sports gear, mouthguards can wear out and lose their effectiveness. They may have to be replaced after a certain period of time. However, proper care will increase their longevity.