Richard Cañizares, DMD
Prosthodontics and Cosmetic Dentistry
Marlene Rivera, DMD
A mouthguard is a flexible plastic appliance that is worn during recreational and athletic activities to protect the teeth and dental implants from trauma and being knocked out; prevent jaw fractures, neck injuries and concussions. Some studies have estimated that wearing a dental mouthguard can reduce concussions by 50%. Mouthguards can also minimize the severity of lacerated and bruised lips and cheeks by keeping these soft tissue areas away from the teeth. This is especially true for youngsters with orthodontic braces.
The mouth is the most commonly injured area of the body during contact sports. Wearing mouthguards is highly recommended when boxing, playing basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, football, ice hockey, martial arts, soccer, wrestling, water polo and rugby. The American Dental Association also suggests that mouth protection be used for those partaking in acrobatics, gymnastics, volleyball, handball, racquetball, skiing, skydiving, squash, surfing, weightlifting, shot putting and discus throwing.
Participants in recreational activities such as skateboarding and bicycling should wear mouthguards, especially in competition. An effective mouthguard should remain in place during the activity and not interfere with speech or breathing. It should provide maximum protection and be comfortable and unobtrusive to wear.
There are three main classes of mouthguards:
• Stock (Ready-made) Most sporting goods stores carry these. They are the inexpensive. They are available in various sizes and shapes, but cannot be adjusted to fit your mouth. They are loose and bulky, and may interfere with speaking or breathing. These are the least desirable.
• Mouth-formed ("Boil & Bite") These are also available in most sporting goods stores and are inexpensive. Depending on the brand, a plastic mouthguard shell is boiled in water for 10-45 seconds, cooled under tap water for 5-20 seconds, and molded and adapted directly in the mouth. While the fit and longevity are not as accurate as custom-made guards, they provide superior fit and protection over stock mouthguards.
• Custom-made This type is highly recommended because it is the most effective. Dentists take custom molds of your teeth and have a laboratory work with casts of your teeth. Many colors are available. The thickness is customized to the athletic risks inherent with the particular sport. While they provide the greatest level of protection and comfort, they happen to be the most expensive. The value is your safety and peace of mind.
Like all sports gear, dental mouthguards can wear out and lose their effectiveness. The mouthguard created by a dentist should ideally be checked after each sports season. Proper care will increase their longevity. Keep the mouthguard away from heat, which can lead to unwanted deformation and decreased accuracy. Always keep out of direct sunlight. Never leave a mouthguard in a closed car. Rinse them under cold or warm, never hot water, after each use. On occasion, use a dental retainer cleaner to keep fresh. When not in use, either store in a well-ventilated plastic box, the refrigerator, or a container immersed in water. And of course, don't ever handle or try to wear someone else's mouthguard.
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