A mouthguard is a flexible appliance made out of plastic that is worn in athletic and recreational activities to protect teeth from trauma.
The dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities to protect your mouth from injuries. More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year. A mouthguard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral haemorrhages, incidents of unconsciousness, jaw fractures and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouthguards are effective in moving soft issue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.
Anytime there is a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces, it is advisable to wear a mouthguard. Players who participate in basketball, soft ball, football, wrestling, soccer, rugby, in-line skating, martial arts as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling should wear mouthguards while competing.
Parents are sometimes uninformed about the level of contact and potential for serious dental injuries involved with sports in which the child participates. Some, though not all schools, reinforce the health advantage of mouthguards for their contact sports. Cost may be another consideration, although mouthguards come in a variety of price ranges.
Stock mouth guards -these are a bulky gutter of rigid plastic available from pharmacies and sports stores. They are very uncomfortable, interfere with speech and breathing and because they are not firmly secured offer a false sense of protection
Boil and Bite mouth guards – Pharmacies and sports stores also sell “boil and bite “mouth guards. They are made from a thermoplastic material which is softened in hot water and then placed in the mouth to mould to the teeth as the guard is bitten. Like stock guards, they are cheap but never fit well and their shape easily deforms. They can be uncomfortable, impair breathing and speech, offer limited protection and can be an airway hazard.
Custom fitted mouth guards – These are made by a dental professional using an impression of the teeth from special shock absorbing plastic. A custom fitted mouth guard fits a person’s mouth perfectly. The accurate fit and control of the thickness maximizes the shock absorbing effect. They fit comfortably and won’t interfere with breathing.
Clean your mouthguard by washing it with soap and warm (not hot) water.
Before storing, soak your mouthguard in mouthwash.
Keep your mouthguard in a well-ventilated plastic storage box when not in use. Make sure the box has several holes so the mouth-guard will dry.
Heat is bad for mouthguards, so don’t leave it in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile.
Don’t bend your mouthguard when storing.
Don’t handle or wear someone else’s mouthguard.