Many children enjoy playing sports, whether recreationally or competitively. As fun as these sports can be, they also have some risk involved. This is why there is a variety of safety equipment available that is designed to protect parts of the body that are most prone to sports injuries. These can include helmets, elbow and knee pads, and proper footwear. Additionally, your child’s dentist may also recommend a sports mouthguard.
Sports mouth guards are a specialized form of mouth guard that is specifically designed for use during sporting activities. While a traditional mouth guard normally covers the teeth, a sports mouthguard covers both the teeth and gums to protect both structures from potential injuries. Most sports mouthguards are only used to protect the upper teeth and gums, since they are more likely to sustain injury, however a double mouthguard for both the upper and lower arches may be recommended for certain sports.
While the American Dental Association and your child’s dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard while playing certain sports, there are also cases where a mouthguard is required. Generally speaking, mouth guards can be a required piece of safety equipment when the sport in question is high contact, such as boxing, football, or hockey. When a mouth guard is required, usually this means a single mouthguard that covers the upper teeth and gums. However, if your child has braces or other fixed orthodontic appliances and plays high contact sports, then they may need a double mouthguard.
Mouthguards are highly recommended, whether they are required or not. The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) has found that children who do not wear mouth guards while playing sports are 60 times more likely to sustain a dental injury. By having your child wear a mouthguard while playing sports, you can decrease their risk of the following sports-related dental injuries:
- Cracked Teeth
- Fractured Tooth Roots
- Tooth Intrusion
When looking for a sports mouthguard, it is important to know that there are three different types of mouthguards available: over the counter, boil and bite, and custom-fitted. Over the counter mouthguards are highly available and inexpensive, however they are only available as stock sizes. This means that they often don’t fit properly, which can make it harder to talk or breathe. Poor-fitting mouthguards are also uncomfortable and can also lead to dental dysfunction down the road.
Boil and bite mouthguards are a slightly better approach, however they too have their shortcomings. Like the name suggests, you will first boil the material to soften it, then bite down into it. Similar to a dental impression, this will allow the mouthguard to harden around the shape of your teeth and gums. While boil and bite mouthguards are available over the counter and offer a better fit than stock mouth guards, they still do not offer the proper fit of a custom-fitted mouthguard.
Custom-fitted mouthguards are fabricated by a dental professional and are completely customized to fit your child’s mouth. Not only are they the most comfortable out of all the mouthguard types, but they also offer the best protection. For this reason, some team or league insurance companies may only provide coverage for injuries sustained while wearing a mouthguard fabricated by a dentist. In these cases, a custom-fitted mouthguard can be a requirement.