Cracked teeth, broken braces, and mouth cuts shouldn’t be a part of kids’ sports—but, sadly, they can be (and are). According to the American Dental Assistants Association, athletes have a 1 in 10 chance of getting injured in their mouth, face, or teeth.
How can we prevent sports injuries to the mouth and teeth?
While we can’t control what happens during contact sports like football, hockey, and basketball (though mouth injuries can occur during any kind of sport), there is equipment available that can help prevent painful mouth injuries.
- Helmets. Helmets play a vital role in minimizing head and dental injuries. Depending on the construction of the helmet, these protective devices can shield athletes from hard blows (from another player, ball, etc.)
- Masks. Depending on the sport, masks are standard equipment for all players or an option for certain positions, such as for a baseball pitcher. Masks protect players from contacts, such as a fast ball or a hard contact from another player.
- Mouth guards. Mouth guards are one of the best ways to protect an athlete from dental injuries. These devices go around the top teeth and can help minimize injuries to the lower teeth, gums, nerves, and tissue. Athletes with braces can and should wear mouth guards because the mouth guards can prevent broken braces (and injuries stemming from broken hardware). If an athlete has another kind of dental appliance, contact the dentist to discuss the best options for a mouth guard that works with the appliance.
What kind of mouth guards are available?
There are several different kinds of mouth guards that can be purchased to protect an athlete from cracked or lost teeth, nerve damage, or mouth cuts.
- Stock mouth guards. These off-the-shelf mouth guards can be bought at stores and are extremely affordable. Because of their standard construction, however, these mouth guards can feel extremely bulky and make it hard to breathe and talk.
- Boil mouth guards. These protective devices are more customized than stock mouth guards, giving the athlete a more comfortable fit. Made of an extremely malleable material, these mouth guards are placed in hot water and then in an athlete’s mouth where they conform to the teeth and gums.
- Custom mouth guards. Prior to the production of this mouth guard, a dentist takes an impression of the teeth (for that reason, contact a dentist about a custom mouth guard). The mouth guard is then manufactured for the mouth with customized specifications and with a flexible material. Because of the process, these mouth guards are very comfortable, making it easy to breathe and talk.