What is a mouthguard?
A mouthguard is a protective device that covers the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, arches, lips, gums and brain.
Mouthguards are most often used for contact sports and/or dental treatments. There are four basic types:
- Stock (ready-made): Made of rubber or polyvinyl, this mouthguard has a generic fit with limited comfort, protection and durability. They tend to be bulky, loose-fitting, and often interfere with breathing and speech. Most dentists do not recommend stock mouthguards and some even consider them to be potentially hazardous.
- Boil and bite (mouth-formed): This type of mouthguard is heated, then bitten into. The fit can be imprecise and the heating process also reduces the longevity of the mouthguard.
- Vacuum-formed (single-layer): Vacuum-formed mouthguards are made from a single layer of plastic formed on a cast model of the user's teeth. They offer a moderate level of protection and limited durability.
- Pressure-laminated: Pressure-laminated mouthguards provide excellent fit, protection and comfort (Journal of Athletic Training, 2001). They are also very durable and can be modified for specific sports and customized to fit braces or varying mouth size.
How does a mouthguard work?
A properly-fitted mouthguard can cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth.
Custom-fitted mouthguards can play a role in preventing concussions. When the upper and lower teeth slam together, the force of the impact is transmitted to the brain which can cause a concussion. A custom-fitted mouthguard can provide a resilient, protective surface to distribute and disperse the impact.
Can mouthguards actually reduce sports injuries?
When athletes do not wear mouthguards, they are 1.6 to 1.9 times more likely to experience a dental injury (Sports Medicine, 2007).
Health Canada, the Canadian Dental Association and the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine recommend that anyone participating in a sport with a high chance of contact with other players or hard surfaces wear a mouthguard. This includes hockey, football, basketball, baseball, rugby, volleyball and gymnastics (Journal of the American Dental Association, 2006).
What does a mouthguard look like?
Mouthguards are made from rubber or plastic. They can cover the upper or lower teeth. To offer protection against concussions, mouthguards should cover the surface of the molars, preventing the upper and lower teeth from slamming together if the jaw is struck.
Is a mouthguard comfortable to wear?
Most store-bought mouthguards do not hold their shape, sometimes fitting so poorly that users alter them to make them more comfortable. Unfortunately, this reduces the mouthguard's protective properties. Custom-fitted mouthguards have a tight, comfortable fit because they are specifically tailored to the user's mouth.
Can a mouthguard be worn over braces?
Yes - in fact, having a custom-fitted mouthguard is especially important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. A blow to the face could damage the brackets or other orthodontic appliances. A mouthguard can also provide a barrier between the braces and the cheeks or lips, helping to minimize injury to the soft tissues.
Can a mouthguard help me score more goals?!
It could! There is evidence that having a properly-aligned jaw improves body posture (Neuroscience Letters, 2004) which can increase balance, endurance and strength. A custom-fitted mouthguard could move the jaw into its optimal position, relaxing facial muscles and improving oxygen flow - factors that could maximize athletic performance.
How much does a custom-fitted mouthguard cost?
A single blow to the mouth from a hockey stick may result in months or even years of treatment, with costs ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Protect your head and mouth. Call your nearest Altima Dental Centre for a quote on obtaining a custom-fitted mouthguard for you or your child today!