Having the Right Mouthguardby: AFM Editorial Staff
© May 2014
It’s easy to take some things for granted until they’re gone. Imagine what it would be like if you lost one or two of your front teeth.
A properly fitted mouthguard is an important piece of athletic gear that should be mandatory for football players at all levels. Mouthguards help cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth and help prevent injuries to the lips, tongue, face and jaw. According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries, an athlete is 60 times more likely to damage his teeth if he is not wearing one. Research also indicates a mouthguard may reduce the severity and incidence of concussions.
TYPES OF MOUTHGUARDS
There are essentially three types of mouthguards - custom, boil-and-bite, and stock.
• Stock Mouthguards - the cost for this type of mouthguard ranges up to $15 and they are available in sporting goods stores, drug stores and on websites. This is the least expensive type of mouthguard and is sold ready-to-use. They are typically only available in a few sizes - small, medium, and large. With a stock mouthguard that is not fitted correctly, the athlete may continually clench his teeth. Doing so may make talking and breathing difficult. Because only a few sizes may be available, a stock mouthpiece may not cover all of the wearer’s back teeth.
• Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards - The cost ranges from $10-$50 and they are available also at sporting goods and drug stores as well as websites. This mouthguard is bought off the shelf in one of a few standard sizes. The athlete then customizes its fit at home before wearing it. They are made of thermoplastic materials which allows their fit to be customized. During the customization process, care must be taken so the thickness of the plastic that covers the chewing surface and the biting edges of the teeth is not thinned out. If it is, the level of protection that this mouthguard provides may be compromised.
• Custom Mouthguards - The cost ranges from $75-$200 for a custom fit. They are available at either dentist offices or websites that offer laboratory services. They are typically made by the athlete’s dentist and considered to be the preferred type of mouth protector. Customized mouthguards provide the highest level of protection and best fit.
The dentist will make a plaster cast of the athlete’s mouth and take a dental impression of his teeth. This impression is then used to make a plaster cast of the athlete’s teeth and surrounding gum issue. Then, the turnaround time is usually one to two weeks.
BUYING A MOUTHGUARD ONLINE
There are a number of online companies that produce form-fitting mouthguards that combine design and technology to help produce better protection. They include Gladiator, Shock Doctor, Fierce Mouthguards, Defender Mouthguards, Sportsguard Laboratories, and Impact Custom Mouthguards.
When a selection is then made online, the next step is done in one of two ways. Many companies will send a kit to the athlete’s home for an impression of his teeth. In turn, the impression is then sent to a laboratory. The mouthguard is then customized and sent back to the athlete. He then bites down to make sure the fit is correct. Other companies have studio labs in various sections of the country so that an athlete can visit the nearest lab to have the teeth impression completed there.
CARE AND CLEANING
An athletic mouthguard doesn’t require a high level of care but here are some maintenance tips to keep it looking new and maximize its lifespan:
• When a football player wears a mouthguard, he shouldn’t clench or chew on it. By doing so, the mouthguard can be torn or become deformed.
• After wearing it, the player should wash it off. Give it a good rinsing with cold water and scrub it gently with a toothbrush.
• Soaking the mouthguard in a household-bleach solution can help to clean and disinfect it as well as remove stains and odors.
• A mouthguard may warp or distort if it’s exposed to high temperatures. Don’t place it in hot water or store it in a heat-high environment or a hot surface.
• Store it in a hard, perforated container. Doing so will help protect it from physical harm and will allow it to dry out thoroughly between uses.
The American Dental Association lists the benefits and applications of a properly fitting mouthguard:
• Protection for teeth and dental work - When a blow is delivered to the mouth, the energy of the impact must be absorbed by the mouthguard when it lands. It can help dissipate the total amount of force that a tooth or the entire mouth is exposed to.
• Jawline protection - The mouthguard’s resiliency and stiffness can help to minimize the total amount of force that any one area of the mouth may absorb.
• Soft tissue protection - Blows to the face can force a person’s lips or cheeks against their teeth, dental work, or dental appliances such that they are pierced or torn. Additionally, violent jaw movements caused by a blow or collision can result in a biting laceration of the lips, cheeks, or tongue.
• Braces - Mouthguards can help to protect the lips and cheeks of athletes who wear dental braces.
• Protection from concussion - Some studies suggest that wearing a mouthguard can help reduce the incidence or severity of a concussion.
• Improved athletic performance - Using a mouthguard may help improve an athlete’s performance in the sense he may play more aggressively knowing that their risk of mouth injury is less.
Like any other sports equipment, a mouthguard will eventually wear out. If your mouthguard has holes or tears or becomes loose, it can irritate the teeth and lead to oral issues. Occasionally check the mouthguard’s condition and replace it when necessary. Schedule regular dental check-ups and bring your mouthguard to each dental visit.