The beginning of fall signals the start of youth football and other contact sports. It has been estimated that athletes participating in contact sports have a 8-12% chance of experiencing some sort of injury to the face or mouth. Because of this increased risk, the value of a protective mouthguard cannot be overstated, as 40% of the injuries dentists treat are sports related.
Sports mouthguards are soft plastic appliances which when worn cover and provide protection to the tissue, teeth and bones of the mouth. Guards can help prevent tooth and root fractures due to trauma and tooth to tooth contact as a result of a jarring hit. The appliance cushions the teeth and any effects the trauma may have. They also help in preventing contusions or lacerations of the lips and cheeks. This is especially important for those in orthodontic therapy. Guards also reduce the incidence and severity of concussions by partially absorbing and dispersing any forces transmitted to the jaw. Athletes who participate in football, hockey, lacrosse, karate, etc. should elect to use a protective device.
There are 3 basic type of appliances. Stock guards are the most basic, are the cheapest and provide minimal protection. Boil and bite guards allow the athlete to customize a guard to fit in the mouth by boiling and forming the device in the mouth. These tend to be the most popular. They fit better than stock appliances but the risk is the guard may fit unevenly due to the forming process. Each of these appliances can be found at most athletic retail stores and cost from $1-25. Custom guards are the 3rd type and are obtained from a dentist. The fit, comfort and level of protection of a custom appliance can be expected to be excellent and far exceed the protection afforded by the others. Custom guards tend to cost in the range of $50-100.
The cost of not wearing a guard is hard to estimate. The damage caused by injury can be costly initially and result in years of maintenance, replacement, and additional therapy, along with the esthetic concerns which would accompany an injury to a front tooth.
Some points to keep in mind when using an athletic mouthguard:
-Do not expose the guard to high heat as it may deform and no longer fit properly.
-Keep away from pets(They like to eat them!).
-Clean the guard on a regular basis with cool water.
-Do not chew on the mouthguard when in use.
-Store in the provided case when not in use.
-Use the guard for only one sports season. This allows for your child's proper oral-maxillofacial growth.