Mouthguards: Smile-saving devices help save face

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Mouthguards: Smile-saving devices help save face

Let the games begin! As the weather starts warming up, people naturally start heading outdoors in search of physical activity, thus increasing a person's chance of suffering a mouth-related injury.

More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year, according to the May 2004 issue of AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Most injuries occur from sports activities and can be easily prevented by wearing mouthguards-flexible appliances made out of plastic designed to protect teeth from trauma.

Whether it's an elbow to the jaw in basketball or a ball to the teeth in softball, patients need to learn about the importance of protecting their teeth when playing sports.

"We want to encourage people to wear mouthguards," says Cindy Bauer, DDS, MAGD and AGD spokesperson. "The more active you are, the more you need to wear them. Anyone, including children and adults, who are physically active and play contact sports should wear one."

In the May/June 2004 issue of General Dentistry, the AGD's clinical, peer-reviewed journal, David P. Kumamoto, DDS, FAGD, wrote that "athletes, coaches, athletic directors, athletic trainers, parents and members of the dental community, should be aware of how individuals who participate in sporting activities are at risk for dental trauma."

"It's something (patients) don't realize is available to prevent injuries to the teeth," says Dr. Kumamoto, who has been the team dentist for University of Illinois at Chicago for 21 years.

Dr. Bauer recommends patients visit their dentists to have their mouthguard specifically fitted to their mouth. Patients who are wearing orthodontic brackets and who participate in sports should be fitted for a custom mouthguard.

Did you know?

  • A mouthguard may prevent serious injuries such as concussions and jaw fractures by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw.

What Is A Mouthguard?

A mouthguard is a flexible appliance made out of plastic that is worn in athletic and recreational activities to protect teeth from trauma.

Why should I wear a mouthguard?
To protect your mouth from injuries. The dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities. More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year.

Do mouthguards prevent injuries?
A mouthguard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, 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.

In what sports should I wear a mouthguard?
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, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating, martial arts as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling should wear mouthguards while competing.

Why don't kids wear mouthguards?
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.

What are the different types of mouthguards?
Stock mouthguard: The lowest cost option is a stock item, which offers the least protection because the fit adjustment is limited. It may interfere with speech and breathing because this mouthguard requires that the jaw be closed to hold it in place. A stock mouthguard is not considered acceptable as an facial protective device.

Mouth-formed protectors: These mouthguards come as a shell-liner and "boil-and-bite" product. The shell is lined with acrylic or rubber. When placed in an athlete's mouth, the protector's lining material molds to the teeth and is allowed to set.

Custom-made mouth protectors: The best choice is a mouthguard custom-made by your dentist. It offers the best protection, fit and comfort level because it is made from a cast to fit your teeth.

How should I care for a mouthguard?

  • 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.

  • Don't bend your mouthguard when storing.

  • Don't handle or wear someone else's mouthguard.

  • Call your dentist who made the mouthguard if there are any problems.

The Academy of General Dentistry is a non-profit organization of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient's oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at NOTE: Information that appears in General Dentistry, the AGD's peer-reviewed journal, AGD Impact, the AGD's newsmagazine and related press releases do not necessarily reflect the endorsement of the AGD.

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