An injury to the mouth can be a painful—and costly—experience. However, a well-made mouth-guard can help protect your mouth from broken or chipped teeth and save you from some preventable dental expenses.
Who Needs to Use a Mouth-guard?
Anyone—child, teen, or adult—who is involved in sports or recreational activities should consider using a mouth-guard. It’s not just contact sports that can result in damage to the teeth. In fact, cyclists, skateboarders and those who ride scooters and dirt bikes account for 44 % of dental injuries. Following close behind at 14% of dental injuries are those caused by contact sports like football, wrestling, boxing, hockey, and soccer. If you are involved in gymnastics or skating, you should also invest in a mouth-guard.
Sports-related accidents to the mouth can damage more than your teeth. They can also result in injuries to your lips, tongue, and even a broken jaw.
Persons who live with bruxism (grinding their teeth) also should use a mouth-guard to prevent tooth damage. One in five adults in the U.S. suffer from teeth grinding and jaw biting and nearly one-third of children deal with these conditions.
Mouth-guards come in three forms: custom-made, boil-and-bite, and stock (pre-formed and ready to wear). While stock mouth-guards seem like a quick and inexpensive solution, they rarely fit well and can interfere with talking and breathing. Boil-and-bite mouth-guards are moldable mouth protectors often sold at sporting goods stores that you boil and then place in your mouth to shape around your teeth. While these provide a better fit than stock mouth guards, the best fit comes from a custom mouth-guard your dentist prepares for you. These mouth-guards are made from an impression your dentist makes of your teeth with a special material which is then sent to a laboratory for a permanent mouth-guard that exactly you’re your mouth. Although a custom mouth-guard is more expensive than a boil-and-bite protector, it also provides the best fit and protection. And it can help you avoid costly injuries that can permanently damage your teeth and mouth.
The best mouth-guards are odorless, do not interfere with breathing, do not rip or tear, and fit tightly, but comfortably.
A mouth-guard generally covers your upper teeth which are most likely to take the brunt of an injury to the mouth. Your dentist may consider mouth-guards for your bottom teeth as well if you wear braces or have a dental appliance.
Taking care of your investment
As with any medical or health-related device, properly caring for it will greatly extend its life and usefulness.
Here are some tips for taking care of your mouth-guard:
- Make sure to clean it after each time you use it. Simply rinse it in warm, soapy water or brush it with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Keep it in a safe place and out of extreme heat and cold.
- Use a mouth-guard storage container to keep your mouth-guard dry and prevent bacteria.
- Bring it with you to you visit your dentist to have him or her check it for wear and tear and to thoroughly clean it.