Anyone who participates in sports, whether for pleasure, in youth or adult leagues, or even on a professional level – knows that losing isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a player; sustaining a serious injury is, particularly when that injury is preventable. That’s why it’s so important for adults and children who are active in sports to wear protective gear such as helmets, shin guards, knee and elbow pads, and mouthguards. Wearing a mouthguard can prevent serious injury and save a lot of pain. Each year this simple safety measure prevents more than 200,000 oral injuries among athletes.
Different Types of Mouthguards
All mouthguards are not created equal. Depending upon the design and materials used, mouthpieces will vary in fit, protection, ease of maintenance and longevity. Listed below are several types of mouthguards. Consult your dentist before you make a decision.
Formed by your dentist from a cast model of your teeth, these custom-made guards are designed to cover all the teeth and are shown in the literature to be the best type of protection. These mouthguards can cushion falls and blows to the chin. Custom-made mouthguards may be slightly more expensive than commercially produced mouthpieces, but they offer the best possible fit and protection and are the most comfortable.
These guards are generally made of acrylic gel or thermoplastic materials shaped to fit the contours of your teeth. They are placed in boiling water then attempted to be formed and molded to the teeth. They are commercially produced and do not offer the same fit and protection as a custom fitted mouthguard made from a model of the mouth.
Commercially produced, off-the-shelf mouthguards are the least expensive, but also the least comfortable and the least effective protective mouthpieces. These rubber or polyvinyl pre-formed guards can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. They offer no attempt at fit whatsoever and are not recommended in the dental literature.
Wearing a Mouthguard Makes Good Sense. If you or your children participate in sports, make sure that you are informed about the most common injuries that can occur during play and take appropriate steps to be protected. Always wear a properly fitted mouthguard when you play. Do not wear removable appliances (retainers, complete or partial dentures) when playing sports. Staying in shape – and intact – is an integral part of an overall strategy for all sports. Protecting against injuries will keep you in the game. Keep your competitive edge. Protect both your general and oral health for your best performance on and off the field.
Dr. Suresh Appan