Article at a Glance
Dental injuries are the most common type of facial injury in sports.
Over the counter mouthguards can be found at pharmacies and sporting goods stores. They offer some level of protection but can be cumbersome and uncomfortable.
Custom mouthguards are obtained from your dentist or orthodontist. They are specifically molded for your child’s mouth to provide maximum comfort and protection during athletic activity
If you’re the parent of an athlete, you’ve inevitably had the discussion about wearing a mouthguard for sports. Not surprisingly, kids aren’t keen to shove a piece of plastic in their mouths to take the field or court. Convincing your child to wear a mouthguard doesn’t have to be a fight, the issue can often be resolved with an open discussion. A good place to start is learning why mouthguards are so important and the differences between your options.
The Importance of Using a Mouthguard for Sports
College and professional athletes don’t wear mouthguards to look cool on television. Over the past several years, there’s been a surge in athletes choosing to utilize mouthguards for protection. Several NBA players have joined the ranks including Mason Plumlee after he sustained a mouth injury in a college game that led to four root canals and braces. The NBA even regulates mouthguards stating they must be a solid color and must take the form of the players mouth.
Plumlee’s story demonstrates the need for mouthguards in sports. Given that the most common type of facial injury in sports is actually a dental injury, mouthguards serve an important purpose. Consider this: Between 13% and 39% of dental injuries in a given year are sports-related. This encompasses dozens of sports activities, not just high-contact sports like football and basketball.
The Truth About Over the Counter Mouthguards
Over the counter mouthguards can be a tempting choice because they are inexpensive and easy to obtain. Carried by most pharmacies and sporting goods stores, there are two basic types of over the counter mouth protectors.
- Stock mouthguards are pre-formed and can be worn right out of the package. However, they are difficult to wear because you can’t adjust the fit and they provide almost no protection against injury.
- Boil and bite mouthguards fit better than the stock brands, but they require some work before wearing. You have to soften the mouthguard in boiling water and mold it around the teeth then let it cool to set.
Over the counter mouthguards tend to be made of thinner plastics that aren’t necessarily able to withstand excessive force. They don’t last long or fit particularly well. They would not be the best option for kids who grind their teeth during competition. While these options offer some level of protection there is a better option to truly preserve your child’s teeth without impeding their function.
Investing in a Custom Sports Mouthguard
A better option for protecting your child’s mouth is a custom sports mouthguard. Unlike over the counter options, custom mouthguards form to fit each nook and cranny to ensure a perfect, comfortable fit.
Not only do custom mouthguards fit better, they are made from thicker plastic to last longer and provide greater protection without sacrificing comfort for function. The construction of custom mouthguards also alleviates jaw tension making it a better option for athletes, especially those who grind their teeth.
If you happen to have an athlete with braces, mouthguards are a necessity. Choosing a custom mouthguard will protect the teeth you’re already investing in. Athletes with braces will appreciate the custom mouthguard because it will protect the soft tissues of their mouth and align with the individual brackets for a better fit.
The Bottom Line on Sports Mouthguards
Though a custom sports mouthguard will cost you more than an over the counter mouthguard, it will save a lot down the line. Since custom mouthguards are more durable, you won’t have to replace them as frequently and greater protection means less chance of expensive dental work from a sports injury.
Deciding on the right type of mouthguard is only half the battle. You have to convince your child to wear it every time they compete. Have an open discussion about the importance of wearing their mouthguards and how it can save them a lot of pain down the line. You can always discuss concerns with your dentist.
As The Official Dentist of the Dallas Mavericks, Jefferson Dental Care appreciates the importance of athletes using mouthguards. Athletic activity is a wonderful experience for kids, but we don’t want anything to happen to their smiles. Contact the office nearest you to discuss your child’s options for a mouthguard.
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