What Are Mouth Guards?
Mouth guards, sports guards or mouth protectors are removable shells similar to dentures that protect your teeth against damage during sports. The difference lies in the specific use. They are all plastic shells made of plastic meant to cover your teeth (normally upper) at occasions where your teeth may stand the risk of damage.
How Are They Worn?
Mouth guards are generally worn on the upper teeth. They are designed in such a way that they will also provide protection to lower teeth. In certain situations, mouth guards can be made for lower teeth also.
What are the Different Types of Mouth Guards?
Yes, like everything in this world, there is variety in the mouth guards also. The classification is primarily on the way how you get them, and that makes the difference also. There are three broad types of mouth guards:
- Stock mouth guards are available preformed and ready to wear. Just buy them off the shelf and put them on. They are readily available at most sports stores. These are the least expensive type. However, since these have been mass produced in two or three sizes they cannot be expected to fit your teeth perfectly. Also, they cannot be adjusted to improve the fit. Normally, these are bulky, feel awkward on the teeth, and make talking and breathing somewhat difficult. These are not favored by dentists.
- Boil and bite mouth guards can also be bought at most stores and generally provide a better fit than stock mouth guards. These are originally made from thermoplastic materials which tend to melt when they are boiled. In the molten state you bite on them and mold them with fingers and the tongue to obtain the best fit. That is why they are called “boil and bite” mouth guards. Boil and bite mouth guards are made of a thinner material because they have to be molded with hands. For this reason, these are not robust. Also, they will not provide a perfect fit.
- Custom-made mouth guards– These are custom made to impressions of your teeth taken by a dentist in a dental office. The impressions are sent by the dentist to a professional laboratory along with your dentist’s instructions using a special material. When properly made these provide a perfect fit but much more expensive.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Mouth guards are mainly used for protecting the teeth and jaw joints from accidental injuries during sports. When playing contact sports like boxing and wrestling, and even non-contact sports like baseball, cricket, skateboarding, etc., there is a risk of injury to the teeth. A mouth guard will normally protect against it.
Can I Wear a Mouth Guard if I Wear Braces?
Yes! If you are wearing braces a fixed dental appliance, an injury to your face could damage your braces or the other appliances. An accurately fitted mouth guard may become particularly important in such situations. Your dentist or orthodontist should provide the best advice on the appropriate form of the guard for your mouth.
How to Care for My Mouth Guard?
Make it a routine to:
- Rinse the mouth guard with water or a mouth rinse every time when you remove it or put it on. It can also be cleaned with soapy water and a brush.
- Store the mouth guard in a perforated (to permit air circulation). Acrylic mouth guards must be kept wet is a soaking solution or fresh water. When storing, keep it cool, avoiding exposure to sunlight and high temperature.
- Check your mouth guard frequently for wear. If you find any holes or tears or if it becomes loose or does not fit comfortably, replace it.
- Have your mouth guard inspected by your dentist at regular checkup
What Happens If You Don’t Wear A Mouth Guard During Sports?
Mouth guards are designed to prevent accidental injuries to the oral tissues during active contact sports. If sportsmen do not wear mouth guards, they are vulnerable to the following types of injuries or problems:
- Chipped or Fractured Teeth – teeth can fracture due to a direct blow to the teeth during contact sports. This can be easily prevented by wearing mouth guards.
- Damaged Dental Prostheses – if a mouth guard is not worn, an accidental impact on the face can lead to the fracture of dental prostheses like crowns, bridges and other prostheses.
- Injuries Associated with the Jaw Joints – An injury to one or both the jaw joints can result in serious problems such as difficulty in speech and eating, and limited mouth opening. The mouth guards are helpful in preventing direct or indirect trauma to the jaw joints during field or contact sports.
- Injury to the Lips and Oral Soft Tissues – during contact sports, there is a chance that teeth may accidentally bite on the tongue or cheeks, leading to a serious injury. Another use of a mouth guard is to prevent the oral soft tissues from damage.
Mouth guards are designed for your protection. Wearing them during sports can prevent you from serious damage to your teeth, gums and other dental structures. If you are a sportsman and you don’t have a habit of wearing one, then you should visit your dentist immediately for getting custom-made mouthguards, so that you can enjoy the sports without having any fear of dental injuries.
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