While warming up can reduce the risk of muscular sporting injuries, contact injuries can occur at any point. Whether from physical contact with an opponent or from a fall, injuries can lead to time away from your chosen sport and possible expensive medical costs.
An area that is often overlooked when engaging in sports is the teeth. Sports dentistry promotes the use of mouthguards to help protect your smile.
Why a Mouthguard is an Essential Piece of Sporting Equipment
A blow to the mouth can cause serious damage to unprotected teeth. It is potentially disfiguring and could lead to extensive and costly dental treatment depending on the extent of the damage caused by the blow. A sudden jolt to the head can also result in you biting your tongue or lips.
In sporting terms, such an injury may mean you are not able to participate in that sport for a period of time. However, a serious blow to the mouth could also see you have to take time off work, another financial fallout from such an injury.
For your child, damaged teeth that need dental work can mean missing important school time.
Wearing a mouthguard offers protection to the oral cavity and reduces the risk of such damage. It isn’t just the pros that need mouthguards either. Children taking part in sports at school as well as college and amateur athletes can all benefit from the protection given by a mouthguard.
The Role of Sports Dentistry
Any dentist will advocate protecting your teeth and gums when participating in sports. However, sports dentistry is geared toward making this specific point, as well as educating people about the various benefits of wearing a mouthguard.
Mouthguards don’t only protect the teeth. A sports dentist will also inform you how a mouthguard can reduce injuries to the soft tissues. The tongue, lips and gums are particularly vulnerable to physical trauma caused during a sporting activity.
As well as cushioning the blow, a mouthguard can prevent you from biting on or even through an area of soft tissue.
A sports dentist can also educate you on how a mouthguard provides stability to your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) during sports. The TMJ is the hinge-like joint that connects the jaw to the skull, and the cushioning effect of a mouthguard helps prevent jolting to this jaw which could result in injury and jaw discomfort.
Beyond education on the benefits of wearing a mouthguard, sports dentistry is also concerned with treating sporting dental injuries. Treatment may not be any different than when treating any other oral trauma injuries, but there can be an issue around the scheduling of a treatment plan to coincide with future match and game schedules.
Ultimately the role of a sports dentist is to encourage wearing a mouthguard to help prevent reaching the point where treatment is required to repair or restore damaged teeth resulting from sporting trauma.
Two Main Types of Mouthguards
Having a mouthguard custom-made by a sports dentist is the surest way to receive a mouthguard that fits properly when worn. It is created from a mold of your mouth and usually made from an acrylic material. Non-acrylic mouthguards can be made if you are allergic to it.
A custom-made mouthguard has a hard outer side for protection and a softer inner for comfort. A properly fitting mouthguard is important as it does not move around and does not feel cumbersome. A mouthguard that moves or feels cumbersome can be uncomfortable and make it hard to breathe and talk. This can deter you from wearing it, with potentially calamitous results.
2. Boil and Bite
This type of mouthguard can be bought at retail stores and therefore can seem a convenient option. It is also a cheaper option. However, they are viewed as an inferior product compared to a custom-made mouthguard.
Boil and bite mouthguards bought from retail stores are often one-layer varieties. Multi-layer types are also available, normally bought from specialist sports stores, which are seen as better than the one-layer version.
As the name suggests, they work by placing the product made from thermoplastic in boiling water before being molded to fit your teeth. They can be boiled and molded again if the fit doesn’t feel right at first.
Mouthwear to Enhance Performance
A more recent addition to sporting mouthwear is aimed at improving athletic performance by aiding jaw alignment. It is still a controversial topic, and one in which many remain skeptical as research into its effectiveness is minimal at present.
The theory is that products such as Under Armour Performance Enhancing Mouthguard by Bite Tech align the jaw to help optimize performance as the body is working more efficiently. Therefore, they offer both performance and protection benefits.
When seeking advice on protecting your teeth during sports, speaking to a dentist with experience in sports dentistry is important.
Dental issues resulting from a sporting impact injury may be costly to repair and mean you miss upcoming matches. They can also impact your smile.
Therefore, if you participate in sport, ask your dentist about sport dentistry and the benefits of a properly fitting mouthguard in protecting your smile.