The development of mouthguards and their use in contact sports has decreased the number of oral injuries by more than 200,000 annually.
Mouthguards are not limited to tooth protection. In addition to protecting against cuts to the inside of the cheek or lips, mouthguards are very effective in preventing trauma to the head. When an athlete is hit in the head, the jaw often takes the major impact of the blow. A mouthguard helps absorb this impact and therefore cushions the mouth and the head.
There are three types of mouthguards. The simplest, least expensive one is known as a stock mouthguard. It generally can be found at any sporting goods store. It requires no preparation. You simply take it out of it's package and place it in your mouth. This type of mouthguard offers very little protection as it does not conform to your mouth. If a mouthguard does not fit correctly it will not protect you.
The second and most commonly used type of protector is known as the 'boil and bite'. It is called this because the athlete first immerses this in hot water, then dips it in cold water to cool it enough to bite down on and create a dental impression. This too can be found in just about any sporting goods store.
The third type of mouthguard is the custom-made mouthpiece. It is considered the best and is the most expensive. This type of mouthguard requires a trip to the dentist as it is constructed from a cast model of the athletes mouth.
Overwhelming evidence shows that custom mouthguards are more comfortable, permit easier speech and interfere less with breathing.
The American Dental Association has listed a number of sports in which they feel mouthguards should be worn. According to the ADA the following sports have the potential to seriously harm the head, face or mouth as a result of head to head contact, hazardous falls, tooth clenching or flying pieces of equipment.
A few of the listed sports are football, ice hockey, boxing, basketball, marshal arts, racquetball, skateboarding, wrestling, volleyball and inline skating.
Parents need to be aware that their children's mouths are especially vulnerable. The cost of a mouthguard is nothing compared to the cost of treating your child after an injury.
Coaches need to make sure that players wear their mouthguards. The National College Athletic Association requires colored - usually blue or yellow - mouthpieces so that referees can make sure players wear the device.
Dentistry not only strives to treat disease , but more importantly to prevent it. It is easier and cheeper to prevent tooth and oral injuries than it is to repair the damage. If your child plays a contact sport and is not already wearing a mouthguard, please purchase one.