With the summer months upon us our kids are about to become more physically active. While we may encourage them to wear their helmets and pads when they’re playing, one great way, that we sometimes forget, to protect our children’s teeth is using mouthguards (sometimes referred to as mouth protectors). Mouthguards typically cover just the upper teeth and help minimize the impact of mouth injuries.
Aren’t Mouthguards Just for Contact Sports?
Whether your kid plays contact or non-contact sports they definitely have a smile worth protecting and a mouth guard can do just that. We often think of mouth guards as a necessity for hard-hitting sports like football, hockey or rugby but a case can be made for almost any physical activity where risk of injury is involved. Kids may run into each other during a soccer game or be struck in the jaw by an errant pitch or throw in baseball or softball. Even many so-called extreme sports like skateboarding or wakeboarding can lead to serious mouth injuries to your child. A mouthguard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be just as much a part of your standard equipment as a glove, stick or even helmet.
According to a study done in 2011, nearly 7 out of 10 Americans reported that their child does not wear a mouthguard at soccer, basketball, baseball/softball. Studies have even shown that today’s basketball players are actually more likely to suffer a facial injury than football players. You don’t want your child doing this on the sidelines.
Benefits of Wearing a Mouthguard
Some of the benefits that come from wearing a mouthguard during sports and physical activities are that mouth guards:
· Absorb and evenly distribute some of the force from things like a ball to the face, a fall to a hard surface and an elbow/body check.
· Prevent broken teeth.
· Prevent injury to tongue and lips. It’s nearly impossible to bite through your tongue with a properly fitted mouth guard.
· In some instances prevent or reduce the severity of a concussion.
Types of Mouthguards
You might be wondering what is the best kind of mouthguard for children; there are three main types. Some are pretty basic and others are more complex but provide a better fit.
· Stock mouthguards – Your cheapest option with prices ranging from about $5 to $15. Stock mouthguards come in pre-form shape, made of rubber, that can’t be adjusted and come in sizes that range from small to large. Since stock mouthguards cannot be adjusted to fit your teeth you must keep your jaw/mouth closed to keep it in place; doing so may interfere with speaking and breathing. While not your best option, stock mouthguards are better than nothing.
· Boil-and-Bite mouthguards – Probably the most popular option, boil and bite mouthguards can be purchased at almost any sporting goods store. They’re reasonably priced and unlike stock mouthguards can be adjusted to fit your mouth. In order to adjust these mouth guards to your mouth all you do is heat up the mouthguard and then bite down on the mold for the designated amount of time, hence the name “boil-and-bite”.
· Custom-fitted – This option is made specifically for you by your dentist. The dentist takes a mold of your teeth and then makes a custom mouthguard. Oftentimes patients can choose their colors and even customize them with words or designs. While they are more expensive than the previous two options, they provide the best fit with minimal interference with breathing and speaking. The American Dental Association recommends custom-fitted as your best option.
Is It Right For You?
While dentists are encouraged to ask patients if they participate in sports or activities with potential risks of injury to the teeth, jaw or soft tissues of the mouth, parents should ask their dentist what is the best option for them.
While it may be uncomfortable at first, the more often your child wears their mouthguard the more comfortable they will get with wearing it. Want to get your child even more excited about wearing it? Ask your dentist about custom colors and designs on custom-fitted mouthguards and let your child pick the ones they like.