Mouth Guards

By: J. Shahangian, DDS, MS- San Diego Board Certified Pediatric Dentist

About Mouth Guards
If your child is an athlete and takes part in sports, a mouth guard could save your child’s life and appearance.

According to the ADA (American Dental Association), all people who participate in sports that carry significant risk of physical injury should wear a mouth guard.  There are several spots that fall under this category such as baseball, basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics because these sports could harm your child’s mouth and teeth.  Although we may think that hockey and football are the most dangerous sports to the teeth, the most reported cases of sports-related mouth injuries (about half of all cases) happen in baseball and basketball.

Mouth guards can prevent countless serious injuries such as: the lower jaw getting jammed into the upper jaw, jaw fractures, unconsciousness, cerebral hemorrhages, and concussions.  The way a mouth guard works is by pushing away the soft tissue of the oral cavity from the teeth.  The guard prevents bruising and laceration of the cheeks and lips, especially for children who wear orthodontic materials.

The upper teeth are usually covered by the mouth protector, which serves as a cushion when a blow to the face occurs.  The mouth protector decreases the risk of injury to the mouth’s soft tissue and broken teeth.  I may recommend your child get an additional part for the lower teeth if your child wears braces.  For children who wear other removable appliances such as retainers, I recommend that he/she takes them off during all contact sports.

Types of mouth guards
These are the three types of mouth guards:

  • Stock – pre-formed, ready to wear, affordable mouth guards.  The downside to stock mouth guards is they can make talking and breathing difficult, and can be bulky.
  • Boil and bite – These forms of mouth guard can provide a better fit then the stock mouth protectors.  Boil and bite mouth protectors can be purchased at sporting goods stores.  It is important to follow the directions so that the mouth protector is fitted correctly.
  • Custom-fitted – These types of guards are individually designed for your child.  Although they are more expensive, their custom fitted design provides a better fit than the store bought mouth guards.

Care for your mouth guard
Maintaining your mouth guard clean is important for your child’s overall oral hygiene. You can do this by washing the mouth guard with warm water (not hot) and soap.  When not in use, keep it in a well ventilated box (preferably plastic).  The box should have several perforations to ventilate and dry the mouth guard.  Do not leave your child’s mouth guard in your automobile or under direct sunlight because heat is bad for the mouth guard.  Also, do not bend your child’s mouth guard.  Lastly, teach your child not to share the mouth guard as part of good oral hygiene.[1]

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