Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by participating in sports is a wonderful thing, but whether it’s you or your children participating it’s extremely important to wear a mouthguard. Most of us understand well why it’s important to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, knee and elbow pads while skateboarding or rollerblading, or shin guard while playing soccer-each of these pieces of gear protects you from pain and injury.
Unfortunately, the mouthguard is often overlooked or forgotten about, leading to thousands of children and adults being treated for painful, costly, and sometimes lifelong dental injuries each year. A protective, properly-fitted mouthguard can help you to avoid or minimise these types of injuries-so why wouldn’t you wear one?
An effective mouth guard is more or less a helmet that protects your teeth and jaws from slamming shut from an impact, which can reduce your risk of mouth and jaw injuries as well as concussions. If you or your children play AFL, rugby league, rugby union, or soccer, it may seem obvious to you that a mouthguard is important, as collisions with other players or the ground are an inevitable part of the game. But it’s often the sports in which you don’t expect collisions to occur where dental damage can be greatest. Accidental collisions in sports like cricket, netball, or water polo can cause significant damage to players not wearing a mouthguard.
The Australian Dental Association recommends that anyone participating in a sport that carries a risk of any contact to the face should wear a mouthguard. Activities that you may not have initially considered, like skateboarding and martial arts, fall under this category as well. Make sure you’re not forgetting about dental safety the next time you or your child sign up for a sports team or try out a new activity.
It’s clear that wearing a mouthguard to prevent injury to your teeth is important-but how exactly does a mouthguard do this, and what kind of injuries does it help to prevent?
1. Fractured, Dislodged or Knocked-out Teeth
One of the most important reasons to wear a mouthguard is to prevent your teeth from becoming dislodged, fracturing, or being knocked out completely if you are hit in the mouth or face. Fractured teeth, in particular, are very difficult to save and often require a crown over the remaining portion of the tooth, extraction of the tooth and a false tooth, or a root canal if there is significant damage below the surface of the gums.
Knocked out teeth can sometimes be saved if you act quickly and place the knocked out tooth back in its socket within five to ten minutes, but wouldn’t it be better to avoid this stressful situation altogether?
Sports participants are up to 60 times more likely to sustain an injury to their teeth if they’re not wearing a mouthguard. A sports mouthguard helps to cushion a blow to the teeth and also distributes the force of the hit around your whole mouth to prevent individual teeth from receiving all of the impacts. Wearing a simple sports mouthguard can significantly reduce the likelihood of sustaining fractured, dislodged, or knocked-out teeth.
2. Soft Tissue Injuries
Cuts, bruises, and grazes on the cheeks, lips, and gums can also occur due to a blow to the mouth or face, and these types of injuries can lead to substantial bleeding. Mouth guards cover the sharp edges of the teeth, which can sharply reduce these types of soft tissue injuries.
Wearing a mouthguard to prevent soft tissue injuries is even more imperative if you or your child have braces on your teeth. The sharp edges of the brackets put you at even higher risk of soft tissue injury should you take a hit to the head or face, so be sure to ask your dentist or orthodontist about a custom-fitting mouthguard to cover up your braces during sports.
3. Jaw Fractures
Blows to the head or face often cause teeth to grind and knock against each other with huge amounts of force, often leading to jaw fractures which often require major surgery and significant rehabilitation periods.
A mouth guard is a cushion for your teeth and helps to absorb and disperse the impact of blows to the head or face. Wearing a mouthguard can significantly reduce the likelihood of a major jaw injury or concussion that can take months to heal and may have lifelong effects.
Like all disease and injury, it’s always better to prevent it than to treat it whenever possible, and mouthguards are an excellent preventative measure to avoid lasting injury to your teeth, soft tissues, and jaws. Contact your dentist to find out about custom-fitted mouthguards, the best option to protect you and your children’s smiles!