Whether you play sports yourself or watch a loved one from the sidelines you know that a competitive game can be a risky environment. We wear many things to combat the danger of sport-related injuries, everything from helmets to knee pads, and yet many of us leave ourselves basically unprotected in one of the areas which is most at risk: our mouth. Up to 40% of sports injuries involve the face, and while a helmet might be enough to protect most of your head from damage, there's no reason to hesitate from being a bit extra cautious. Plus, many games (like soccer and basketball) don't even utilize the protective power of helmets. If you're thinking of participating in a competitive sporting event, particularly one in which helmets are not used, you should carefully consider utilizing a mouthguard to protect your teeth from damage.
What Are Mouthguards?
- Mouthguards are devices which fit over your teeth and protect your entire mouth from damage.
- They are comfortable, easy to wear and remove and can stand up to some serious damage and still function beautifully.
- The year they were introduced, mouthguards reduced the number of mouth-related injuries reported every year by 200,000, and they have continued to be highly effective tools for avoiding injury ever since.
What Are Your Options?
There are several different types available.
- Ready-made mouthguards are the cheapest model available, but this lower price comes at the cost of their not being custom fitted, which means that they can be uncomfortable.
- Since they are held in place only by your jaw, they can also make it difficult to speak or even breathe properly.
- Mouth-formed mouthguards eliminate the latter problem, fitting over your teeth, but these have their own share of issues, with many warning that these products have a disagreeable taste and that over time they lose their flexibility.
- Thermoplastic-style mouth-formed mouthguards also adhere to the shape of your teeth. However, they do a better job of maintaining their flexibility. To use them you must first heat them in water and then bite down on them, allowing them to form around your teeth. Because they are less carefully fitted they can feel bulkier.
- Finally, there's the ultimate solution, a custom-made mouthguard which can be handcrafted to fit your specific teeth. If you need a special model (due to braces or other issues which might alter the shape of your mouth) that can be provided.
Regardless of the mouth guard you purchase, there are a few things to keep in mind. Never chew while you have one in your mouth as it can wear them down. If you do get a hole in your mouthguard then it should be replaced as the irritation caused by this problem can lead to gum issues. Always rinse your mouthguard with cold water or mouthwash before you wear it, and clean it regularly. Be sure that your mouthguard is being stored in a firm, perforated container away from direct sunlight or excessive temperatures. Finally, wear your mouthguard whenever you're carrying out a sports-related activity, whether it's a practice, a typical game or a pick-up match between friends. Better to be safe than sorry.