Mouth guards are plastic appliances used by athletes during practice and games to prevent injuries to their teeth, cheeks, tongue and jaws. Depending on the sport, the athlete may be at risk for chipped teeth, broken crowns, cut cheeks and lips, root damage, fractured jaws and even concussions. Multiple studies have shown that dental trauma results from all kinds of sports, including non contact sports, but can be prevented if a mouth guard is used.
Mouth guards may seem like a nuisance to children who are used to playing their sport without one, but when a proper mouth guard is worn, potentially life changing injuries will be prevented. An effective mouth guard will be strong enough to protect teeth and gums, while not altering speech or breathing. All parents want to ensure the safety of their children and considering risks associated with athletics is part of that assessment. Children should wear mouth guards during any activity where there is any potential risk to the face or head, including during sports practice.
How Do We Choose A Mouth Guard?
There are a few options of mouth guards available and making the correct selection is going to depend largely on your child and their level of comfort. The mouth guard needs to be comfortable enough that the child will actually wear it and fit properly to actually protect them. Any mouth guard purchased should be tear-resistant. Different types include custom mouth guards made by a dentist or orthodontist, the boil and bite mouth guard bought at any sporting goods store, and the pre-formed ready-to-wear mouth guard. The pre-formed type of mouth guard will be the least expensive option, but will be ill-fitting and can potentially alter your child’s speech as a result. The boil and bite mouth guard will be better fitting, but may still be too bulky to be comfortable and depending on how your child bites, the spongy material inside may become too thin in spots, compromising the effectiveness of the guard. A custom mouth guard is going to be the most expensive, but the best option overall. The fit will be ideal as will the protection it affords to you child’s mouth and custom mouth guards can be made differently depending on the sport your child participates in.
Regardless of which type you select, it is important to keep the mouth guard clean and in a protective case while not being worn. If a mouth guard is showing any signs of wear or tear, it should be replaced immediately. Your child’s dentist or orthodontist can check the mouth guard at appointments to ensure the mouth guard is working as intended.
What About Braces?
A child that is currently undergoing orthodontic treatment and is wearing braces should have a brace guard made for them to further protect their teeth and gums, as well as their braces. Often mouth guards only cover the top arch, but a child in braces may want a lower mouth guard too to prevent injuries to their lips and gums.