Dental Sports Mouth Guards: Myths and Options

In one of our last posts we dealt with stupid ways to break your teeth. We all know that you can’t fix stupid and you can’t walk around all day with a mouth guard, but many sports injuries can be prevented by wearing a mouth guard. Several different types of mouth guards are available including custom fitted mouth guards  made at our Carlsbad dental office. 

What can a mouth guard do?

Prevent Concussions?

Many claims are made regarding the benefits of wearing a mouth guard while playing sports including preventing concussions, improving athletic performance and protecting the teeth and gums. Regarding the first claim; mouth guards do not protect against concussions. The brain floats in a bag of cerebral spinal fluid that acts as a cushion for the brain. A concussion occurs when rapid acceleration causes the head to snap back, the protective fluid is displaced and the brain then bangs against the skull. This leads to a release of proteins and inflammation, then swelling occurs causing a headache or concussion. Can something worn in your mouth stop your brain from accelerating when the head suffers trauma? Maybe, in very special circumstances but most of the time, no. Perhaps wearing a mouth guard for that one special blow is good idea but don’t think it will prevent all concussions.

Improve Athletic Performance?

Other claims have been made about mouth guards positioning your jaw to improve athletic performance. We do not know but we have the feeling they are about as effective as the hologram wrist bands that were all the rage for a while. If you believe it will improve your performance, it will.

Protect Your Teeth, Gums and Lips

Mouth guards cannot prevent all injuries but they do prevent most injuries to your mouth; your teeth, gums, jaw joint and lips when playing sports or other activities where sudden impact can occur. As dentists we do believe in is protecting your mouth while playing sports. We like teeth.  We see many sports related dental injuries….way too many. Trauma can vary from a minor tooth chip to fractured jaws and lost teeth. Unfortunately, teeth do not heal once broken and they need to last a lifetime. The best course of action is to prevent these injuries by wearing a mouth guard which will prevent most of these injuries.

Types of Sports Mouthguards

Several different types of mouth guards can be constructed.

Boil and Bite dental sportsguard

Stock or Over the counter mouth guards

A boil and bite mouth guard can be purchased at most sporting goods stores or online and made at home. You simply heat the preformed stock mouth guard in hot water and bite into it. The advantages of this type are that it is cheap and easy to make. The major disadvantages are that many people find it them to be bulky, difficult to breathe with and ill fitting. Many have a hard time keeping them in while playing.

over the counter dental sports guar

Custom Mouthguards

Custom Mouth guard made at dental officeSeveral different custom fitted mouth guards of different thickness can be made at our Carlsbad dental office. The process involves impressions of the teeth and a vacuum process to achieve a snug fit. Most athletes find these to be less bulky, much more comfortable and easier to breathe with than those purchased at a sporting goods store. Although these do not provide the most protection they are often the most accepted by the player allowing the best combination of comfort, looks and protection. Compliance is often the biggest issue.

For maximum protection a hard mouth guard can be produced in a dental laboratory. Unfortunately, they are more expensive and some find them to be too rigid and difficult to wear.

Laboratory made custom sports mouth guard Maximum protection

When should  a mouth guard be worn?

Whenever physical contact with other players or impact with objects or the ground can occur. What sports cause the most severe dental injuries? Not football. Most likely the helmet and mandatory mouth guard provide protection. In our experience the most dangerous team sports to your teeth are basketball, soccer, and water polo. We believe in the benefits of team sports and support many Carlsbad youth teams.

Free Sports Mouth Guards for our Patients in Youth Sports

We feel strongly that protection is a good idea and we are willing to make custom fitted mouth guards for any of our young patients at no charge if they will wear them while playing. If you are a patient or parent, simply print out this blog and bring it to the dental office.  Unfortunately, we have watched as sports have become more and more physical/violent even in youth leagues, so we recommend that mouth guards be worn early in youth sports. We may not be able to prevent all dental injuries because people do stupid things. You can’t wear a mouth guard all the time but wearing one when you are playing sports can only help.