Spring is just around the corner. In Utah, Spring means a brand new sports season. It means kids all over the state will be registering for flag football, volleyball, basketball and soccer in their local recreation leagues. For you parents of high schoolers, baseball, lacrosse, softball and track will be coming into season. It also means you’ll need to invest in the right kind of mouth guard.
The number one concern for parents as their children start a new sports season is safety. Unfortunately (at least from your pediatric dentist’s perspective) the most overlooked safety measure are the teeth. Knees, ankles, hands, shoulders…all of those are easily accounted for.
What many tend to forget is that your child’s teeth are bones just like any other bone in their body. Depending on the sport your child plays and whether they are receiving dental treatment or not , the teeth and mouth will require different kinds of protection.
Types of Mouth Guards
So what kind of mouth guard should your young athlete use? There are basically 3 types of mouth guards to choose from:
- Stock Mouth Guards – The advantage with these types of mouth guards is that they are the most affordable and are ready to wear as soon as they are taken out of the packaging. Disadvantages are that they rarely fit all because of their one-size-fits-all design and can tend to feel bulky in the mouth.
- Boil & Bite Mouth Guards – These mouth guards are designed to be molded to the individual’s teeth. You place them in hot water until they are soft. The athlete bites down for 15-20 seconds and then the mouth guard is hardened again in cool water. The mouth guard is now molded to the individual athlete’s teeth. Boil & bite mouth guards are a much better protection option than stock mouth guards.
- Custom-Fitted Mouth Guards – These are usually made in a dental office and are designed to meet the individual athlete’s needs. The dentist will make an impression of the teeth and then the guard is formed using the mold. If your child has braces, a custom fitted mouth guard is the best option to protect both your child’s teeth and the braces themselves.
Common Dental Injuries in Sports
What about the sports themselves. Do different sports require different forms of protection for the mouth and teeth? The answer is yes.
Certain sports are more prone to specific kinds of dental injuries than others. The following is a guide to some of the more common types of dental injuries and the sports they are most often associated with. Wearing the proper kind of mouth guard can help prevent many of them.
|Soft Tissue Injuries – gum, tongue, and cheek lacerations or punctures||These are most commonly seen in no or low contact sports where human to human contact isn’t intended but still happens. These include sports like basketball, baseball or softball|
|Displaced or dislocated teeth – Displaced means the tooth has been loosened but knocked out. Dislocation would mean a completely dislodged tooth.||Contact sports where there is some head protection but the head is still open to blows from other athletes like hockey, boxing or football.|
|Fractured or Chipped teeth||Sports where sudden, fast yet highly concentrated contact can be made to the mouth. The contact is usually made by an implement and not necessarily another athlete. These include volleyball, martial arts or hockey.|
|Dislocated Jaws||While most often associated with contact sports like boxing or MMA, dislocated jaws can often occur in extreme sports like skateboarding.|
Making the Right Mouth Guard Choice
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing the right mouth guard for your athlete is comfort. If they aren’t comfortable, they won’t be able to have as much fun as they would otherwise. What does comfort look like when it comes to a mouth guard?
- The athlete can easily breath
- The mouth guard isn’t digging into soft tissue in the mouth
- The athlete can talk relatively easily
- The mouth guard is easy to clean so it doesn’t taste terrible over time
If your child has braces, it is best to consult your pediatric orthodontist before you purchase a mouth guard for your athlete. The last thing you will want to do is cause unnecessary damage to your child’s mouth or braces.