The Real Game-Winner: Mouthguards

Posted on September 19, 2013 in General oral health

Take me out to the ball game” has a much better ring to it than “take me out to the dentist,” don't you think? That's why you and your children should always wear a mouthguard when playing any sport or activity – baseball included – that carries a risk of mouth injury.

Young athletes are 60 times more likely to injure their teeth when not wearing a mouthguard, which is why it's so important to wear them for both practices and games. In addition to keeping teeth safer, they also help prevent inner mouth lacerations and jaw and neck injuries.

There are three basic types of mouthguards: custom-fit, boil and bite, and stock mouthguards. Ideally, a mouthguard should be protective, comfortable, resilient, tear resistant, odorless, tasteless, not bulky, cause minimal interference with speaking and breathing, and have excellent retention. The best option is a custom-fit model, which a dentist can create to perfectly fit the contours of each person's mouth. It's more expensive than the other mouthguard options, but it works the best and is also the most comfortable since it has an exact fit.

If cost is an issue, consider the other options. You may have seen “boil-and-bite” mouthguards in sporting goods stores. This mouthguard gets soft when dropped into boiling water, so the wearer can bite into it to form it to his or her mouth. This option is more economical than the dentist-created model, but also offers only a somewhat custom fit.

The cheapest options are stock mouthguards, which are not customizable. This type of mouthguard will only stay in place if the wearer clenches his or her teeth. It's the least comfortable of all of the options, but it's a better choice than playing sports with no mouthguard at all.

So, which activities require a mouthguard? Football, ice hockey, field hockey and lacrosse, but athletes should wear them for any sport or activity that has the potential to cause a mouth injury. Here are a few, just for starters: basketball (which has a higher occurrence of mouth injuries), acrobatics, baseball, bicycling, boxing, discus throwing, gymnastics, martial arts, racquetball, rugby, shot put, skateboarding, skiing, soccer, surfing, volleyball, water polo and wrestling.