Taking a Bite Out of Sports Injuries

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

As the new school year begins, so are all sports activities your children are involved in such as football, hockey, soccer, basketball , baseball and lacrosse. Unfortunately, these sports can cause serious injuries to the mouth. A properly fitted mouth guard is an important piece of athletic gear that can protect your teeth and smile.

The American Dental Association and the Academy for Sports Dentistry recommend that a mouth guard be worn during most sports activities, including noncontact sports such as gymnastics. This will help prevent tooth loss and damage, jaw fracture, and the bruising of the lips and cheeks.

There are three types of mouth guards: stock, boil and bite and custom-fitted. Stock guards are ready-made and ready to wear. Available in small, medium and large sizes, they are inexpensive and can be purchased at most sporting good and department stores. Unfortunately , they are bulky, cannot be adjusted and do not fit well. They make breathing and speaking difficult and provide little or no protection. Dentists do
not recommend these sports guards.

The most commonly worn guards are the boil and bite. Also inexpensive and readily available for purchase at sporting goods stores, they offer a better fit than stock mouthguards because they are made of thermoplastic material that is placed in hot water to soften, then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth.

The best sports guard is the custom-fitted guard that is made by a dentist. It is more expensive than the other guards because of the time and special materials involved in making them but it offers superior fit, durability , protection and comfort.

Generally, a mouth guard covers only the upper teeth. Custom-fitted guards Can be made to cover the lower teeth if necessary and can be tailored to meet the demands of the athlete and the sport. A strap can be fastened to most types of mouth guards to protect it against loss and to allow it to be suspended from a face mask when the athlete is not in play.

Care for the sports guard is simple. It should be brushed with a toothbrush and rinsed with cold water or an antiseptic mouth wash. The mouth guard should be stored in a perforated container that allows air circulation. Mouth guards that are torn or worn with wholes should be replaced.

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