Patricia Humphrey Clark D.D.S., M.S.D.
221 S. 19th St.
Terre Haute IN 47807
Research has shown that the part of the body most prone to injury in sports is the mouth. Many of these injuries could be prevented if the participants would wear proper headgear, helmets, or a properly fitted mouth guard. There are more than 5 million teeth knocked out (avulsed each year because of an injury in sports. An athlete is sixty times more likely to damage their teeth if they are not wearing a mouth guard. Every athlete involved in contact sports has about a 10% chance per season of an oralfacial injury. During an athletic career, there is a 35 – 56% chance of sustaining an oralfacial injury. The results of a dental injury can be painful, costly, and permanent.
The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouth guards for the following sports: Acrobatics, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weight lifting, and wrestling.
1) How do I choose a mouth guard?
It is important a mouth guard should:
a) Provide maximum protection from a traumatic injury.
b) It should remain in place during sports activity.
c) It should not interfere with breathing or speech.
d) It should be comfortable to wear.
e) It should be easy to clean.
2) Are there different kinds of mouth guards?
There are three types of mouth guards:
a) Ready made – These mouth guards cost the least and can be purchased in athletic stores, sports stores, and discount stores. While they can offer some protection, they are not as effective as the following types of mouth guards. They come in standard sizes; little can be done to adjust them to fit your mouth. A major complaint is they are bulky, loose, uncomfortable, and can interfere with breathing and speaking.
b) Self-adapted – This type of mouth guard can be relatively inexpensive and can be found in the same type of stores as the “ready made”. The major difference is they are molded to fit each individual’s mouth. This is done by boiling the mouthpiece in water, then biting into the warm plastic. One of the nice features of this type of mouth guard is they can be refitted. If, on the first try, the mouth guard does not fit you can reheat it and try again. This type of mouth guard is better than the “ready made” but there are still some disadvantages. As with the “ready made” the mouth guard can feel bulky and can cause difficulty with breathing or speaking.
c) Custom made – By far the most highly recommended type of mouth guard is the “custom made”. It can be made by your family dentist where it is specifically designed and constructed for the patient. Of course, it is a bit more expensive, but it will offer a number of advantages. It will have an exceptionally good fit, it will be comfortable, and should not interfere with speech or breathing.
3) How do I care for my mouth guard?
a) You should rinse the mouth guard under cold water after each use.
b) You should occasionally clean your mouth guard in a solution of soap and cool water.
c) You should store it in a container containing water so it will not be damaged or lost.
b) You should inspect your mouth guard on a regular basis to determine if there has been any damage. As with any sports gear your mouth guard will tear or wear out. You should replace them when there is any sign of damage. Some recommend you replace the mouth guard after each sports season. If your sporting activity is a year round event, you should constantly monitor the condition of your mouth guard.