A very intense field of study, traumatic brain injury and concussions in sport have been under a microscope lately, and rightly so. With the increasing popularity of contact sports, prevention of major injury, especially in children, is of the highest priority.
Most protective gear, including body padding protection and regulation helmets, are a mandatory standard with most sports organizations. However, there is one piece of protective gear that, depending on provincial and division regulations, remains optional; the mouthguard.
What Is a Mouthguard & Why Is It Necessary?
Sports mouthguards are protective appliances that fit into your mouth to safeguard your teeth, gums and jaw from injury. Once used exclusively for intense contact sports such as hockey, rugby, boxing, and football, mouthguards are now recommended for a range of sports and activities, like gymnastics, martial arts, skiing, skateboarding, and even tobogganing.
Mouthguards protect against injury by:
Creating a Custom Barrier – Custom mouthguards create a barrier between teeth and soft tissue that surrounds the mouth and jaw. This helps to prevent tooth breakage and cuts to the lips, gums and soft tissue.
Acting As a Shock Absorber– Helping to absorb shock, custom mouthguards stabilize the head and neck, and cushion direct impact to the face and jaw, which may help lessen the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussions.
There are generally three types of mouthguards available today, but their composition and quality differ. It is important to educate yourself on their properties so you can determine what type of mouthguard best suits your needs.
Over the Counter Mouthguard
Over the counter, or stock, mouthguards are readily available at your local sporting goods or online sports store. An inexpensive option, their “one size fits all” approach does little to protect teeth and their bulky nature is uncomfortable and can make breathing and talking difficult. Most dentists do not recommend these types of mouthguards as a viable option for mouth protection.
Boil & Bite
Boil & Bite mouthguards are also readily available over the counter, but cost more due to their individualized element. Made from thermoplastic material, these mouthguards become pliable when placed in hot water. The mold is then shaped around the teeth in an effort to “customize the fit” of the appliance. However, many wearers complain that the appliance is uncomfortable: the fit is bulky, making it difficult to breathe and properly keep in place for long periods of time.
These types of appliances don’t generally last long, the pliable plastic used wears down much faster than the stronger material used in custom-fit options.
Custom mouthguards are made by your dental professional from exact tooth impressions and precise measurements. Because of this, the size and thickness of the guard is fitted to your mouth making wearing, talking and breathing as comfortable as possible. And the only way a mouthguard can work is if it is worn.
Although a custom-made mouthguard is more expensive than the other types, the protection and comfort it provides far outweighs a store-bought option.
While the cost of a custom mouthguard is more than an over the counter option, it is likely less costly than you think. Check with your dentist to find out.
However, what you pay for in this more costly upfront fee, you will get back by saving in dental fees. Dental Hygiene Canada states the estimated cost to treat a lost front tooth over a lifetime can range from $5,000-$10,000. And this doesn’t include costs for more major jaw alignments and mouth surgeries.
And considering the average cost of custom-fit sports mouthguard can be as low as $150, the math essentially does itself. It is easy to conclude that a custom mouthguard is a sound investment in your oral and brain health.
There is a myth that people who wear braces cannot be fitted to a custom mouthguard. Your dental professional can easily create a custom mouthguard using the same tried and true techniques: teeth impressions and bite measurements. In fact, when you have braces it is yet another reason to purchase a mouthguard – not only do you need to protect your teeth and jaw, you should protect your orthodontic financial investment.
So Which Mouthguard Should I Choose?
Now that you know the benefits, types and costs, you can determine which mouthguard is most beneficial to you.
It goes without saying that custom mouthguards get the seal of approval from almost all board-certified dental professionals.
This is not because of cost and the business they will generate. This is because they know the intricacies of the mouth and jaw – and know what it takes to truly protect them. And guess what? The Canadian Dental Association agrees.
In fact, a new study in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry, concluded that high school football players wearing store-bought, over the counter mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions than those wearing custom-made, properly fitted mouthguards.
Therefore, the need for custom mouthguards is clear. Visit your dentist, and not your local sporting goods store, when looking to protect your teeth and brain from injury.
Don’t gamble. Make an appointment with your dentist today and get one step closer to protecting your oral health.
Your Custom Mouthguard
By now we hope you have decided a custom mouthguard is the right choice for you. If you are serious about protecting your oral health while playing high impact sports, you have made a sound decision.
Care & Cleaning
To keep your custom mouthguard in the best shape possible, follow these tips:
- Rinse with cold water before and after each use
- Brush with toothpaste or clean it with cool, soapy water and rinse thoroughly at least once per week
- Avoid contact with hot water
- Store in your original container
- Clean and air dry your original container weekly
- Avoid direct exposure to sunlight or high temperatures
According to The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, your mouthguard may need to be replaced every 1-2 years due to a growing oral cavity, material deterioration or a general loss of fit and comfort.
Bring your mouthguard with you to every dental visit. Your dentist or hygienist will inspect it thoroughly, evaluate and advise if your mouthguard is still providing optimal protection or if it needs to be repaired or replaced.