April is National Facial Protection Month, and because so many of our patients are involved in a variety of contact sports, it’s a great time of year to remind everyone that a mouth guard is just as important as pads are for football players and helmets are for hockey players.
Mouth guards are particularly important if you are in orthodontic treatment and have brackets and arch wires on your teeth. A minor blow to the face can be uncomfortable if you don’t have braces. But add metal into the mix and a minor blow to the face can leave you with abrasions and cuts inside your mouth from your soft tissue being pressed against your orthodontic appliances.
In addition to protecting your teeth and soft tissue, a mouth guard can protect your orthodontic appliances from being damaged or broken. That level of protection helps make sure your treatment stays on track, too. A broken appliance can’t do its job. If you go a couple of days before getting it repaired, that’s lost treatment time.
Mouth guards are also a relatively inexpensive piece of safety equipment. There are a variety of options from which to choose.
Over-the-counter mouth guards– This inexpensive option comes pre-formed and ready to wear. The down side to this option is that they don’t always fit very well, and proper fit is the key to adequate protection. They also can be bulky and may make breathing and talking difficult.
Boil and bite mouth guards-We recommend these mouth guards to patients. They are in a pre-formed shape that is altered to fit your bite. You boil the mouth guard in water, then bite into the warm plastic to create a customized fit. You can purchase this kind of guard at many sporting goods stores.
Custom mouth guards– This is another great option, due to optimum fit and ultimate protection of your teeth and orthodontic appliances. You can ask your dentist about custom mouth guards, as many offer them. Your dentist begins by taking an impression of your teeth and then has the mouth guard fabricated to fit. Once it has been made, your dentist will check it for proper fit before sending you out on the field or the court with it. A well-fitting mouth guard enables you to breathe comfortably and converse when worn.
In addition to protecting your teeth, mouth guards also may provide some protection against concussions.
Mouth Guard Checks
It is important to bring your mouth guard in and let your dentist check it annually to ensure that it still fits properly. When it comes to children who are growing and teeth that are being shifted into proper alignment, last year’s custom mouth guard may not fit this year.
If you have a mouth guard – regardless of whether you purchased it elsewhere or got it from your dentist’s office – bring it with you to your next dental appointment, or before your sports season starts. Your dentist can take a look at it and make sure it will do the job it’s designed to do.
This simple piece of safety equipment was introduced more than 100 years ago, yet it still isn’t a required piece of equipment for most sports. However, in hockey and football, where mouth guards are required, there has been a sizable reduction in the amount of dental injuries.
In case you need additional convincing on why mouth guards are so important, here are some sobering facts and statistics regarding dental trauma.
Every year, emergency rooms across America treat thousands of patients for dental trauma, and many of them are sports-related. Trauma as a result of playing sports accounts for 36 percent of all injuries among adolescents in the U.S., according to a review and case study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry.
Sports accidents reportedly account for 10 to 39 percent of all dental injuries in children and are most often caused by direct hits with a hard object, such as a puck or ball, and player-to-player contact, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s Policy on Prevention of Sports-related Orofacial Injuries.
This isn’t unique to the United States.
A study published in 2015 looked at the number of dental trauma patients treated at the emergency room of the University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany between January 2010 and December 2013. During that time, 1,305 patients were treated for dental trauma. The average age was about 14.
A decade-long Austrian study found that the 10- to 19-year-old age group showed the highest incidence of sports-related injuries.
Dental trauma takes longer to treat and is costlier to treat than many other bodily injuries treated on an outpatient basis, according to the International Association of Dental Traumatology.
Does my child need to wear a mouth guard if he/she doesn’t have any adult teeth yet?
Absolutely! The idea that your kids don’t need to protect their baby teeth is a fallacy. Those teeth serve a purpose, such as acting as space holders until the adult teeth are ready to erupt. They also help provide a guide for the adult teeth.
Baby teeth that are lost prematurely can cause serious problems with the adult teeth.
About National Facial Protection Month
National Facial Protection Month “strives to raise public awareness and remind parents/caregivers, coaches and athletes to play it safe while playing sports,” according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Five of the country’s top dental associations have teamed up to spread this important message in 2016: the Academy for Sports Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, and the American Dental Association. The goal is to help people learn more about how simple it can be to take five and make a play for better safety that protects not only your mouth and face, but also your peace of mind.