When we think about threats to our teeth, we tend to think about things like consuming too much sugar which leads to cavities or a required root canal or extraction. But believe it or not, one of the single largest threats to dental health and causes of dental problems is mouth injuries caused by sports – and usually, to people not wearing a mouth guard.
Each year, thousands of people – including children – experience painful dental injuries that are expensive and could have been easily prevented by wearing a mouth guard while playing sports. Mouth guards are usually custom fitted and provide an excellent level of protection that could make a dramatic difference in the event of an accident that would otherwise cause a dental injury.
Why would you need a mouth guard?
Teeth can be damaged or knocked out, jaws can be broken and lips or gums can be cut when playing sports. When you wear a custom-fit mouth guard while playing sports, it can help spread the impact of a direct blow to your face, diffusing the energy and preventing the injury that would’ve occurred.
A dental injury could cause you to miss school or work, leading to further problems with finances or academics. The financial cost of the injury itself can also be quite substantial if it requires extensive dental treatment and even surgery to fix. Any injury that a mouth guard could have prevented would be far more expensive than the cost of the mouth guard itself, so investing in a mouth guard is a great option. It is a vital piece of safety gear that anyone playing sports should consider wearing.
Choosing a type of mouth guard
You can get a simple over the counter mouth guard and it will provide some level of protection, but everyone’s teeth are different and a generic off the shelf mouth guard will only provide a limited amount of protection. If you are going to be participating in a full-contact sport or other activity where you are likely to sustain direct impacts to your body, you will likely want to consider a custom fitted mouth guard made by your dentist.
Custom fitted mouth guards provide a level of protection that over the counter mouth guards cannot. Over the shelf mouth guards do not provide the level of protection you need for serious sporting activities and should be considered only as a last resort when a custom fitted mouth guard is not possible.
Benefits and features of custom fitted mouth guards
When you have a custom mouth guard created by your dentist, you can expect the following benefits, features and advantages:
1. It will be more comfortable than an off the shelf mouth guard solution.
This is important when playing sports, as you need to be able to focus on the game or activity rather than being distracted by an uncomfortable mouth guard in your mouth causing discomfort.
2. It will fit better than other generic mouth guards which are created to fit as many people as possible.
Mouth guards sold over the shelf are made to be able to fit as many people as possible, and as a result will not be as comfortable as one created specifically for your teeth, gums and jaw.
3. The custom mouth guard will allow you to speak clearly rather than having a muffled sounding voice.
This one is important! No matter what sport you’re playing, it is important to be able to communicate with your teammates to ensure things go smoothly and you succeed! The last thing you want is to be shouting muffled things through a poorly fitted mouth guard at a crucial point in the game.
4. It will not restrict your breathing.
Another important benefit of custom fitted mouth guards is they do not restrict your breathing the way some generic over the shelf mouth guards would. This is also very important, as sports are very strenuous and you need all the air you can get to maintain energy!
5. A custom mouth guard will not shift or fall out during strenuous activity.
If you’ve ever watched sports and seen when a player or wrestler’s mouth guard goes flying through the air, you know what we are talking about! What good is a mouth guard if it can’t be counted on to stay in place when you need it the most? A custom fitted mouth guard will stay in place when you need it to protect you, and that is a major advantage.
Generic mouth guards
If a custom fitted mouth guard is not an option, you may have to use a generic mouth guard. These fit into a couple of different categories. The first type is one where you buy the mouth guard and use it as it comes. The second type is one that you heat up and then bite into it to conform to the shape of your teeth. This is the next best thing to getting a custom fitted mouth guard from your dentist, although it doesn’t have as much benefits as a custom fitted guard.
What to do in the case of an accident
If a primary (baby) tooth is knocked out:
- Do not try to put the tooth back in! This may cause damage or lead to an infection.
- Go to a dentist right away if possible to ensure no pieces of the broken tooth remain in the jaw or gums, and to make sure nothing else was damaged by the accident.
- Apply pressure to the area to stop and prevent further bleeding.
- Clean the affected area with a clean cloth, and apply a cold compress to the area to prevent or reduce swelling.
If a secondary (adult) tooth is knocked out:
- Find the tooth.
- If it is dirty, very carefully clean it, but do not remove any gum tissue from it.
- Place the tooth back in the socket quickly (within a few minutes) and carefully, making sure it is in the correct placement and orientation.
- Ask the person who lost the tooth to bite down gently but firmly on a soft folded cloth to hold the tooth in place. You can also use the mouth guard or a piece of foil.
- If you are not sure whether the tooth is an adult or baby tooth, put it back in the socket just to be on the safe side.
- Go to the dentist right away or as soon as possible to get treatment and prevent further or permanent damage.
You’re now aware of why you should wear a mouth guard when playing sports, and the consequences if you don’t wear one. Do you or a friend or family member have any stories about times when you took a hit to the mouth with or without a mouth guard? Feel free to share them in the comments below!