Have an older child or teenager who plays a contact sport, such as football, hockey or rugby? Be sure that he or she wears a mouth guard for games and practices. Although a regular routine of professional cleaning from a dentist or dental hygienist and twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing will help keep your teen’s smile bright, it’s very important to wear a mouth guard to protect that smile.
Mouth guards, also called sports guards or mouth/teeth protectors, refer to any devices worn over the teeth to protect them from injury if the athlete is hit in the face or head. Mouth guards are made from a sturdy but resilient plastic material and fall into three categories:
- Customized. You can have a mouth guard custom-made by your dentist. These are the most comfortable, but also the most expensive.
- “Boil and bite.” This type of mouth guard is semi-customized. You purchase a preformed plastic shape and customize the fit by boiling the guard in water for a few minutes and then biting into the warm plastic.
- Standard. A standard mouth guard is preformed and can’t be altered to fit a specific mouth. It provides protection but can interfere with breathing or talking due to the inexact fit.
The American Dental Association recommends the use of mouth guards for more than 20 specific sports including football, hockey, and lacrosse.
It doesn’t matter what type of mouth guard your active teen chooses as long as he or she wears it. Findings from impact studies have shown that wearing mouth guards made from any of several types of materials offer significant protection to the teeth compared with wearing no mouth guard. In one study, the risk of an orofacial injury was 1.6 to 1.9 times higher for athletes who were not wearing mouth guards.