I was at a continuing education seminar last week and one of the topics being discussed was mouthguards. Although it seems basic, and you would think that everyone who should be wearing one does, this is far from the case. I still see far too many sports related dental injuries in every season which could have been prevented.
Any sport that presents the chance of contact or collision with another person, object, or surface can potentially cause injury to teeth, jaws, and oral soft tissue. These sports include, but are not limited to, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, field hockey, pond hockey, boxing, lacrosse, biking, inline skating, and skateboarding.
Teeth get in the way. Other than your nose, front teeth are “out there” and your lips only provide minimal protection. For example, a student I saw this past spring from a local private school was playing squash. Squash is a non-contact sport but the game is played in close proximity to another player with a swinging racquet. The student I treated had been hit in the mouth with the other player’s racquet. He required a root canal on one front tooth and a crown. The other front tooth needed to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant. All of this could have been prevented with a mouthguard.
A custom mouthguard made by your dentist covers the upper teeth with a soft, flexible material that can prevent many injuries. It decreases the chance of the lower jaw jamming into the upper jaw or being pushed back into the temporomandibular (jaw) joint. Mouthguards may reduce the severity and incidence of concussions as well.
Custom mouthguards, made by a dentist, fit 100 times better than anything you can buy in a store. This not only improves performance (making it easier to breathe), but also makes it more likely the athlete will keep the mouthguard in.
Custom-made mouthguards may be a little more expensive than over-the-counter versions, but they are far superior, and that is enough reason to consider them. Inform your dentist if you or your child participates in sports or recreational activities. Because mouth injuries can be painful, costly, and life-changing, it is recommended that all athletes take preventative measures at all times.
At my seminar this past week the presenter noted that injury to the teeth from sport injuries creates life-long issues that can run in the 10’s of thousands of dollars to maintain over a lifetime. The $100 or so that it costs to have a well-fitting custom guard made, that will be worn more often because it fits well, is worth every penny. It kills me to see children and adults come in with injuries to their once beautiful front teeth. The best dentistry is no dentistry because even the best dentistry needs to be maintained and/or replaced, sometimes multiple times over a lifetime.
Even if it isn’t “cool” to wear a mouthguard in the sport you are playing, strongly consider it anyway. You only get one set of your own teeth. Custom guards can be made with fancy colors and designs. You never know, you may start a trend….and who cares what other people think; these are your teeth!
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have, please email them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org