CLEATS? CHECK! HELMET? CHECK!
SHIN AND SHOULDER PADS? CHECK AND CHECK!
ADEQUATE SPORTS MOUTH GUARD?
Recent studies have shown that most people are not aware of the frequency and severity of trauma to the mouth from both contact and non-contact sporting activities. Many sports-related traumatic dental injuries are preventable with the use of a proper fitting sports mouth guard. We know using proper fitting protective equipment works, it's the reason we all take the time to fit ourselves and children with the right helmet or chest pads before we even consider walking onto the field. Including a properly fitted sports mouth guard in your equipment check list each season is an easy way to be sure that you protect your teeth, gums and brain from trauma associated with impact from elbows, balls, punches, head-butts and sticks to the face and head.
Typically sports mouth guards cover the upper teach (statistically these are the teeth that carry the greatest possibility of injury), however if you have braces, implants, bridges or other dental work on your lower teeth your dentist may suggest a guard to protect these areas as well.
THERE ARE 3 TYPES OF SPORTS MOUTH GUARDS TO CONSIDER WHEN RESEARCHING YOUR OPTIONS:
Stock guards. These come out of the package preformed and ready to wear. These are easy, quick and are the least expensive option. Unfortunately the one-size fits all model does not work very well in your mouth and these guards are often bulky and lose, making it difficult to speak and breath easily. The rubber material that they are made of is soft and does not provide the impact resistance needed to reduce the rate and severity of concussions, and trauma to the mouth and teeth. Also, stock guards will not provide protection in areas that have missing teeth or orthodontic appliances (such as braces). I would recommend using they type of guard only if you are in a pinch and your option is a stock guard or no guard.
Boil and bite guards. These come in a preformed shape with a firm hard exterior, and moldable interior which can be altered by boiling the guard in water and then biting into the warm rubber for a more customized fit. These guards can create a better fit than stock guards, since you are fitting it to your mouth and teeth. Unfortunately you are still constrained by the general sizing (often only youth and adult) which may not fit correctly. Similar to stock guards, the materials these are made of tend to be softer and will not provide the protection needed to reduce the rate and severity of concussions, and trauma to your mouth and teeth. Cost varies depending on the brand. While a boil and bite guard may provide more protection than a stock guard will, it still lacks in the ability to provide the protection needed especially if you are missing teeth or if you have anything other than an "average size" mouth. I would recommend using a boil and bite as your "extra" guard and keep one in your sports bag at all time just in care a custom guard is not available.
Custom Made. These are made by your dental office and custom designed to precisely fit your mouth. A custom made guard will provide you with the most comfortable fit and best protection for your mouth. Most athletes prefer to use a customized mouth guard because the fit is superior to the others and therefore it interferes less with their performance (breathing, speaking, running etc.). The materials used for custom guards are designed to withstand a hard hit and provide the protection needed to reduce the rate and severity of concussions, and trauma to your mouth and teeth. Also, any missing teeth. orthodontic appliances or other specifics would be accounted for and therefore provided the best protection for your mouth. Talk with your Dentist about what would be right for you and ask them to make your guard with your name, team colors or jersey number on it! I would recommend a custom made guard for any contact or non-contact sport where you may incur trauma to your mouth and lower face i.e. mountain biking or skateboarding.
How does a sports mouth guard protect me against concussions?
There have been studies conducted that showed athletes wearing store bought mouth guards suffered more traumatic brain injuries/concussions than those wearing custom made guards. While all mouth guards will help to absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw, not all guards do this equally. The main difference of protection is thickness-store bought guards are on average 1.65 millimeters (mm) thick versus a custom guard witch is on average 3.50 mm thick. The difference 2 mm makes is huge when considering the amount of shock absorbance and barrier protection provided from direct hits. Also, the type of material the mouth guard is made of can have an impact on how much protection it provides. Most store bought guards are made of a soft pliable rubber material and custom guards are made out of a stiff laminated material. If you do sustain a hit to the mouth your custom guard made from a thick stiff material will provide much more protection that a thinner pliable rubber guard.
IT IS ESTIMATED THAT ABOUT 80% OF SPORTS PARTICIPANTS WILL SUSTAIN A DENTAL INJURY, WITH INJURIES PEAKING IN HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS.
A large portion of these injuries consist of cuts, cracked or broken teeth and broken jaws. Considering the cost of replacing or repairing a permanent tooth has been estimated between $5,000-$20,000 not including the emotional stress and time it takes to deal with an injury, investing in a well made mouth guard seems like a small price to pay for a highly reduced risk of sustaining an injury allowing you to enjoy your participation in sports and activity with reduced worry.