Sport Mouth Guards: The Ultimate Back-to-School Guide
No matter how distracting it is when Steph Curry gnaws on his sport mouth guard, he sets a good example for your kids because he wears one in the first place. Every year, 5 million teeth are injured or knocked out*, so If your little athletes play sports this fall, make sure to put a mouth guard on their school supply list.
Steph plays in the NBA. Steph also wears a sport mouth guard, so he can smile when he drains a basket. Be like Steph.
Most schools and clubs require mouth protection for sports like basketball, football, lacrosse, and even cheerleading, and for good reason. There are tons of opportunities for chipped and knocked-out teeth or even trauma to the craniofacial bones and your child’s delicate gums. But even non-contact sports like skateboarding, ice-skating, and cheerleading can potentially damage your child’s adorable smile.
We’ve put together an easy guide on finding and maintaining sport mouth guards to keep your child and her teeth safe this season.
I’ve heard multiple names for them. What’s the difference between a dental guard and a sport guard?
In a word, nothing. Mouth guards are thick, flexible plastic teeth covers athletes and use to protect from blows to the face and head. However, mouth guards—or grind plates—used for sleeping are different than those used during sports. So, it’s probably not a good idea for your child to use her nighttime mouth guard for her hockey game. It will wear down faster, gather more bacteria, and a sport guard should fit pretty snugly around each one of her pearly whites to avoid being jostled and knocked out too easily or causing other jaw and teeth injuries.
Be warned, not all sport mouth guards are created equal (more on that later).
What are the risks of forgoing a sport mouth guard?
Unprotected mouths and young ones with only basic hand-eye coordination create a ripe environment for nasty injuries from flying sticks, balls, knees, elbows, or helmets, including:
- Lacerations of gums and inner lips
- Fracture. Your standard chipped, broken, or cracked tooth.
- Luxation. Teeth can shift, twist, be pushed back, pulled forward, or compressed into the jaw. It’s critical no one tries to put the tooth back into place if any of those injuries happen. Leave it as it is and visit an urgent care dental office, so they can save the tooth.
- Avulsion. Or, when the tooth gets knocked clean out. Find it quickly, put it in a glass of milk, and get to the dentist’s office!
- Concussion. Although there’s not direct evidence of sport mouth guards preventing concussions, they can help distribute impact and pressure if a child wears one that’s correctly fitted.
Does your child have braces? Even more reason to invest in that orthodontia you paid for. Visit the article Hampden Dental Group published where they discuss the importance of sport mouth guards in competitive sport and methods to save a tooth once it’s been yanked or cranked.
Now that we know how vulnerable teeth are in sports, the next step is to find the best sport mouth guard for your child’s health and your budget.
The right fit makes all the difference.
Choosing the right sport mouth guard is crucial in avoiding injuries. We at Paradigm Dental—and any other dentist’s office you’ll talk to—recommend getting a custom fit sport mouth guard for your child. Here’s why:
- Stock sport mouth guards provide the lowest amount of protection. These can be found at almost any sporting goods or drug store. From limited number of sizes to inflexible fit, it’s worth investing in something that will ultimately save you more money in dental bills.
- Boil and bite guards may cause jaw problems. Even though these sport mouth guards can be molded to your child’s bite, there’s still a lot of opportunity for improper fitting, causing kids to clench and strain their jaws to keep the sport mouth guard in place during play.
- Custom fit guards provide highest protection for your champ—and your wallet. And while they’re the largest investment, custom fit sport mouth guards are the most comfortable and provide the best protection against impact.
Custom-fit guards and boil-and-bites can even be made for specific sports or positions. Does your child need to be verbal on the field? Use a slimmer-fitting guard. If you decide to buy a boil and bite guard, SISU offers orthodontist-approved guards that can be molded and placed by your child’s orthodontist, especially if your child wears braces.
We’ve covered why your child should wear a sport mouth guard during competitive sport, but what about when she actually has one?
How do I take care of my child’s sport mouth guard?
It’s a good idea for kids to brush their teeth before using their sport mouth guard to reduce the amount of bacteria trapped in the crevices of the plastic and up against the gums, like Caitlin Batchelor Dentistry’s article on sport mouth guards for kids. After the game ends, make sure to brush the guard with toothpaste and a toothbrush, rinse, and pat it dry with a clean towel before putting it back in its (well-ventilated) case.
Another tip about mouth guard maintenance: bring it with you to the dentist’s office, so the doc can ensure its integrity. Replace it after each season, because children’s mouths grow a lot throughout adolescence, and they tend to gather bacteria and break down more easily after several months of consistent wear.
Be confident your child’s smile—and health—are protected.
Mouth guards protect your kids’ smiles against myriad injuries, from a bloody lip to a potentially gap-toothed school photo. While no single guard fits all, we recommend finding one that fits most snugly to your child’s teeth to avoid slipping, straining, and to lower the risks of knocking it out during play. Finally, proper care and cleaning of your child’s mouth guard will help lengthen its lifespan.
The school year is busy enough. Choose the right equipment to avoid emergency trips to the dentist, and make this year the best one yet!