Well tis the season, school sports as well as other sports have begun again! With this comes the purchase of new equipment for the sport of choice for yourself or your child. We as parents will purchase shoes, skates, helmets, sticks, gloves and various other pieces to complete the required equipment lists and to keep ourselves and children safe as we/they venture into another year of recreational sporting. However, how many of you include a sport mouth guard in that list? This little piece of equipment is often left off the purchase list and I'm going to hopefully give you some information to perhaps change this mind set.
Mouth guards should be worn by anyone (children or adults) who play sports that have the potential for either purposeful contact or accidental (elbows, knees or other body parts that can accidentally contact face/head region) contact. Some obvious examples are Football, Hockey, and Rugby . The others that may seem more surprising are Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Lacrosse or Handball. All the above listed sports are all organized sports, but don't forget to keep your children's teeth healthy and avoid injuries like teeth going into lips and needing expensive dental work and stitches for non - organized sports like skateboarding and mountain biking.
NOT ALL MOUTH GUARDS ARE CREATED EQUAL! What do I mean by this statement you ask; well let me explain. Were you aware that there are different kinds of sports mouth guards? There are in fact 3 different types of sports mouth guards. I will go through each type and there respective qualities.
First off a mouth guard is typically meant to cover the UPPER teeth of the athlete. The sport guards are designed to protect against broken teeth, cut lips and other damage that may be inflicted on your mouth due to contact with outside forces meeting the face. NOTE: if the athlete wears braces or other fixed dental appliances on lower jaw, it may be recommended to have a LOWER guard fitted as well. Back to the types of Sport guards!
1) Stock Mouth Guards:
These guards are inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Sounds great and easy you say, well unfortunately they often don't fit very well and this may cause the athlete to not wear the guard at all or not how it is intended to be worn (we've all seen athletes with a mouth guard hanging out of their mouths). They can be bulky and make breathing and talking difficult as well.
2) Boil and Bite Mouth Guards:
These come in a pre-formed shape that can be altered by boiling the mouth guard in water, then biting into the warm plastic for a "customized" fit. They can be bought at many sporting goods stores and even at some professional dental establishments as a cheaper option for their clientele. The Boil and Bite guards do offer a better fit than that of a stock mouth guard. You will need to follow the instructions in order to avoid a poor fitting guard (don't bite too hard, don't have water too hot/cold and don't leave in water too long).
3) Custom - made Mouth Guards:
These mouth guards are individually designed and made in a lab either within the dental establishment that is making the guard for you or sent out to a dental lab off site to construct the guard at the off site location and ship back to your dental clinic. Not surprisingly, these guards will offer the athlete the most comfortable fit and the best protection. The reason for this is that the dental office will take a mold of your or your athletes actual teeth, pour that mold into a stone cast model and from that form fit the guard to the exact model of the teeth. Because these guards fit and feel better, most athletes will prefer the customized mouth guards. These custom guards will allow the athlete to talk while the guard remains in place, breathe normally WITHOUT having to clench the upper and lower teeth together to keep guard in place, which in turn may improve or maintain athlete performance levels. However, all this does make the guard more expensive than the other options.
Current research is showing (not surprisingly) that sports mouth guards are able to prevent orofacial injuries to the teeth, mouth and jaw in all sport levels. No research at this time has conclusively stated that sport mouth guards are in fact able to prevent concussions, however they all state that although more research is needed to conclusively make that statement; wearing a proper fitted sports mouth guard meets all the risk vs benefit requirements....meaning that there is no harm only benefit to the athlete wearing this appliance. This seems perfectly logical to this dental professional:).
The estimated cost (as per CDHA publication on sport mouth guards) to treat a lost front tooth over a life time can range from $5000.00 to $10,000.00! The cost of a custom fitted sports mouth guard at PURELY HYGIENE is as low as $50.00!
I just had to get my boys (one 14 years old and one 11 3/4 ;) ready for another hockey season, and let me tell you most of their equipment exceeds that price but ALL the equipment is necessary to keep my athletes healthy and prevent unnecessary injury and cost associated with possible injuries in this sport. FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been known to have said around the arena that due to cages on the helmets that a custom guard may not be as imperative to the athlete until actual contact starts (Bantam level) HOWEVER (Greg (my husband) if your reading my blog right now fast forward to the end) I was wrong.....yup I'll say it again, this was an incorrect thought process on my part. Let me explain. IN MY HOUSE I told my boys that they did not require a custom fit mouth guard until Bantam level because they had the cages in place and there was no contact so just falling and some incidental contact that does happen would be minor. Fast forward to my conversation with my 14 year old during his first year of Bantam ( he is currently beginning his second year). It went something like this ME: I can make you a new guard this year and since I know colored guards aren't cool (insert eye roll) I've brought in clear forms. 14 YEAR OLD: Oh good, cuz yeah I won't wear a colored one. ME: How is the new mouth guard? 14 YEAR OLD: It fits perfect, BUT I don't want to wear it ME: (Confused look) Why? 14 YEAR OLD: I'm not used to wearing the guard and I find it distracting while I'm playing. Moral of my story, it may pay to have a younger athlete get accustom to wearing the guard PRIOR to when it is imperative to have them wear it. The remainder of the above conversation ended with me saying that this is a non-negotiable conversation and that he (my 14 year old) absolutely must wear the guard or pay for his own teeth reconstruction, root canal for fractured teeth and crown to cover the dead discolored tooth! My life may have been easier had I just purchased one when it was cool to have one (insert 11 year old beginning PeeWee 1st year) that is ecstatic to have another new mouth guard......which brings me to my other pertinent information.
HOW LONG does a Mouth Guard last? The mouth guards should ideally be replaced after each season because they can wear down over time, making them less effective. Replacement is especially important for adolescents because their mouths continue to grow and teeth continue to develop into adulthood. If the athlete is playing multiple sports and using the mouth guard for all the sports the mouth guard may need to be replaced more frequently. Ask at Purely Hygiene about our awesome replacement program for within a year of initial purchase!
Well that is it for this blog, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me at (780)515-9878.
Happy Sporting to all the athletes this year! Stay safe, have fun out there:)
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