Over the past few years, active and competitive sports have grown immensely. With the growth, the occurrence of injuries also rises significantly.
One of the most common sports-related injuries incurred by athletes is to the mouth and jaw.
Mouth guards are especially significant when playing contact sports like wrestling, rugby, basketball, football, hockey, volleyball, etc. It’s also advised to wear mouth guards at the time of non-contact sports like gymnastics and other activities like horse riding, biking etc.
As an adult who plays sports or the parent of a child who plays sports have you ever wondered about how effective a mouth guard is?
What is a mouth guard?
A mouth guard is a protective device or a cushioning device that is placed in the mouth over the gums and teeth to shield the teeth, lips, gums and arches from possible injury. It’s predominantly used to prevent injury during contact sports but it also used as a treatment for bruxism or TMD.
Does a mouth guard really provide protection?
If you are partaking in a physical activity then be prepared for accidents to occur. The benefit that a mouth guard has is that it can assist in limiting the risk of mouth-related injuries and prevent teeth from breaking or chipping and even protect from tooth loss. Apart from this, more serious injuries like nerve damage can be obviated.
Say a player takes a blow to the chin, this can cause the teeth to slam together and if the blow is violent enough it can be transmitted to the brain leading to a concussion. The chances of all this can be thwarted or brought down by wearing a mouth guard.
Types of Mouth Guards
There are three types of mouth guards available:
- Stock mouth guards – These come pre-formed and are ready to wear and can be purchased at any sporting goods store or a drug store. They are the least expensive but sometimes, the fitting can be unsuitable which can cause discomfort and may not serve its purpose satisfactorily. These are made of polyvinyl or rubber and tends to be bulky. Talking and breathing becomes difficult as it requires the jaw to be closed to hold it in place.
- Mouth-formed guards – This type is available either in the boil-and-bite kind or the shell liner kind. The latter moulds to the shape of the teeth and remains that way and it’s made with acrylic gel or rubber. The boil-and-bite kind is made of thermoplastic. It’s placed in boiling water in order for it to be formed and moulded to the silhouette of the teeth; this is done by using your fingers, tongue, lips and biting pressure. If the fit isn’t comforting then these can be reheated and refitted until they reach your level of comfort. Both these are available at sporting goods and drug stores as well.
- Custom-fitted mouth guards – These are made and cast to fit your teeth perfectly. Hence, they are not only more expensive but much more satisfying in terms of comfort than the other two varieties. This is done at the dentist’s clinic where an impression of your teeth is made and sent to a dental laboratory where the technician uses this impression as a mould and creates the mouth guard.
What are the advantages of using a mouth guard?
Mouth guard is an important form of protection for athletes of all ages and abilities which can protect them at the time of a physical activity he/she may be engaged in. For athletes, it acts as a cushion and protects one from a blow to the face which can possibly result in an injury to the teeth, jaw or mouth. By acting as a shock absorber, it protects the lower jaw and teeth from breaking and stops you from biting your cheeks, tongue or lips accidentally. An elbow to the face during a basketball game or a fall from a bike can leave you with broken or chipped teeth, tooth loss or even nerve damage. This can be completely avoided.
Apart from extensively protecting the mouth and jaw area during physical activity, a mouth guard is also prescribed at night for those who have bruxism (teeth grinding). It is also used to the make adjustments in the bite for certain jaw disorders and used in certain dental procedures like bleaching.
Preserving your teeth has become simpler and a much needed part of any physical activity. It’s all fun and games till someone loses a tooth. Yes, you can play hard and keep your teeth intact. It’s time to visit your dentist and get the ball rolling towards getting a new mouth guard.
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