Mouth Guards – The Student Athletes’ MVP

emergency dentist in Beaverton

With a new school year upon us, fall sports are in full swing, tackle, and sprint.  Among the many pieces of protective equipment our young athletes wear, the importance of a high-quality, custom-made mouth guard can sometimes be forgotten.  However, despite its small appearance, the mouth guard plays a key role in protecting our kids. It’s critical that every player of a contact sport has a properly fitting mouth guard if they hope to avoid visiting an emergency dentist in Beaverton.

Most Valuable Protection

The primary goal of a mouth guard is to protect the teeth from trauma.  Nearly all of the sports we play put us at some level of risk for contact to the head. As a result, there is a high risk of injury to the mouth.

Teeth can easily be broken, knocked out, or have their nerve severed if severely damaged in a collision of accident. These injuries can lead to painful emergencies that require expensive treatments to correct.  Fortunately, a custom-made mouth guard can greatly reduce the risk of these types of injuries occurring to both school-aged and recreational athletes.

In recent years, studies have begun to show the lifelong detrimental effects concussions have on the body and brain. As a result, concussion prevention has become a key component of player safety in sports of all levels.

Studies have also shown that a properly fitted mouth guard helps to stabilize the lower jaw and the bottom of the skull, protecting them during impact. As a result, the head and neck can better tolerate being hit without injury.

While we still have a lot to learn about concussion and concussion prevention, it is becoming clearer by the day that the mouth guard will play a key role in this fight.

Advice on Selecting the Right Mouth Guard from an Emergency Dentist in Beaverton

There are many different types and brands of mouth guards available today, and it can be difficult to decide which type is the best option. As a general rule, all athletic mouth guards fit into one of three different groups.

Listed below are those groups with the pros and cons of each:

Custom Mouth Guard:  A custom mouth guard is one that is fabricated specifically for a given athlete.   To make one, our team at Barrett Family Dental will take an impression of the athlete’s mouth and create a model of their teeth. From this model, an ideally fitting mouth guard can be created which maximizes the safety of the player. As a result, these are the gold standard for mouth guards.

The upside for this type of mouth guard is simply the unmatched level of protection. They offer the best fit and provide the maximum level of safety. For this reason, all the professional athletes we see on television are wearing custom mouth guards. The downside to a custom mouth guard is they are not available over the counter and must be fabricated by a licensed dentist to ensure proper fit.

Boil & Bite Mouth Guard: This is a mouth guard that comes pre-made and can be purchased over-the-counter at most sporting goods stores. They usually come in a variety of generic sizes designed to fit most mouths, but not exactly. Typically, an athlete will end up wearing a version that doesn’t quite fit, either being a little too large or small.

Once the closest size is selected, the guard is molded at home and fitted. This is done by boiling the guard in water for a period of time, quickly dipping it in cold water, and then having the athlete bite into the guard when it’s in a warm and malleable state.  The guard will then retain its new shape after it cools.  There are many different brands and types of boil and bite mouth guards available over-the-counter. Instructions on how to boil and prepare the mouth guard can vary between different brands, so make sure to read the directions carefully to avoid being burned.

The upside for this type of guard is they are readily available and they are inexpensive. They are also relatively easy to mold if the instructions are carefully followed. The downside, however, is that this type of guard offers only moderate protection. Because they are a standard size appliance, they don’t offer the same quality of fit as a custom guard. Protection is compromised as a result.

Pre-Formed Guard: This is a mouth guard that comes pre-made over the counter and is ready to be used out of the box. There is no molding required, only the proper size needs to be selected.

The upside to this type of guard is they are inexpensive, readily available, and require no modification to be used. The down side is they offer minimal protection, and the value this type of guard is best described as “better than nothing.”  Due to the minimal protection offered by pre-formed mouth guards, we don’t recommend them as many patients who want to avoid seeing an emergency dentist in Beaverton.

Make the Effort to Protect Your Oral Health

Regardless of the type of mouth guard selected, it is imperative that the guard be regularly inspected for damage and wear. Mouth guards do wear out, becoming less effective over time. It is recommended that guards be replaced at least annually, and sooner if they become damaged, worn, or if their fit changes do to athlete growth.

At Barrett Family Dental, we recommended custom mouth guards because they offer the optimal protection for our young athletes. Fabrication of custom mouth guards is a service we offer and we take great pride in helping our young athletes complete safely.