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Anyone who participates in a sport that carries a significant risk of injury should wear a mouth protector, according to the American Dental Association. Sports like basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and volleyball all pose risks to your child's mouth and teeth. We usually think of football and hockey as the most dangerous to the teeth, but nearly half of sports-related mouth injuries occur in basketball and baseball.
A mouth guard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, incidents of unconsciousness, jaw fractures, and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouth guards are effective in moving soft issue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.
Mouth protectors, which typically cover the upper teeth, can cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth. A blow to the face could also damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. If your child wears braces or another fixed dental appliance on her lower jaw, a mouth protector is available for these teeth as well. A mouth protector also provides a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries. Although mouth protectors typically only cover the upper teeth, our office or an orthodontist may suggest that you use a mouth protector on the lower teeth if your child has braces on these teeth too. If your child has a retainer or other removable appliance, do not allow him to wear it during any contact sports.
Types of mouth guards
There are three types of mouth protectors:
- Stock - Inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don't fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
- Boil and bite - Can be purchased at many sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They should be softened in water, then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. If you don't follow the directions carefully you can wind up with a poor-fitting mouth protector.
- Custom-fitted - Made by our office for you personally. They are more expensive than the other versions, but because they are customized, they can offer a better fit than anything you can buy off-the-shelf.
Clean the mouth guard by washing it with soap and warm (not hot) water. Before storing, soak the mouth guard in mouthwash. Keep it in a well-ventilated plastic storage box when not in use. Make sure the box has several holes so the mouth-guard will dry. Heat is bad for mouth guards, so do not leave it in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile. Don't bend the mouth guard when storing. Instruct your child to not handle or wear someone else's mouth guard. Contact us if there are any problems with the mouth guard.