Don’t Forget About Your Kid’s Mouth-Guard

Mouthguards to absorb the shock of impact are crucial to protecting kids against dental injuries. Parents routinely think about helmets, shin guards and other protective equipment to keep their children safe during sports but may overlook the importance of mouth shields.

A boy playing base ball

Studies suggest that more than two million youngsters a year in the U.S. suffer sports-related trauma to the mouth resulting in tooth loss. A mouth protector could prevent many of these injuries.

Dental trauma is the most common type of facial injury in sports. Particularly vulnerable are children who take part in contact sports such as basketball, football, martial arts, boxing, and hockey. However, kids who participate in non-contact sports like gymnastics or recreational activities such as skateboarding can also benefit from wearing a mouthguard.

Professionally-fitted mouthguards reduce the danger of:

  • Tooth nerve damage.
  • Cracked or fractured teeth.
  • Fractured roots.
  • Tooth intrusion, when a tooth is driven into the jaw bone.

A customized mouth protector will also lessen the risk of concussion and neck and head injuries by protecting the head against the impact of a blow to the jaw. A mouthguard also affords protection to your child’s gums, jaw, lips, and tongue.

Different Types of Mouthguard

There are three types of mouthguards:

Preformed (stock) and ready to wear. These cheap mouth protectors are available from most sports equipment stores, but, according to health information resource WebMD, they are not recommended by dentists because they are bulky, hinder talking and breathing, are minimally adjustable, and provide little or no real protection.

Thermoplastic mouthguards. These are also available from many sports goods stores and are designed to fit better than stock mouth protectors. They are softened in hot water and molded around the teeth using tongue and finger pressure.

Custom-fitted. These mouth protectors are customized and made by dental professionals after an impression of the teeth has been taken. The special materials used and the time and work involved mean that these mouthguards are more expensive than the other types but provide the most protection and comfort.

Advantages of a Professionally-Made Mouthguard

To make a customized mouthguard for your youngster, a dentist will make a mold of their teeth and send it to a laboratory specializing in producing dental appliances. Here, the mouth shield is crafted out of material specified by the dentist to best suit your child’s needs.

Professionally-made mouthguards provide the best protection by far because they will not lose their shape and will provide extra protection where needed. They are also the most long-lasting option.

Generally, customized mouth protectors cover the upper teeth only, but in some cases (if your child wears braces on their lower jaw, for instance) they can be designed to protect the lower teeth as well. Some custom-fitted mouthguards comprise a hard outer layer and soft inner lining for comfort.

The American Dental Association (ADA) says the most effective mouthguards are those made by dentists. Stock and mouth-formed guards can wear out after a few months, but custom-fitted mouth protectors typically last a year or more. The ADA adds that a mouthguard should be part of standard sports equipment from an early age to reduce the number and severity of sports-related dental injuries.

Benefits of a mouthguard custom-fitted by a dentist for your youngster include:

  • No restriction in speech or breathing.
  • Firm and comfortable fit.
  • No bad taste or odor.
  • Ease of cleaning.
  • Resistance to damage.

Why Your Child Needs a Mouthguard

Wenatchee Valley Dental Village a pediatric dental office in Wenatchee Washington says, “Did you know that mouthguards should be worn during sporting events, even for just a friendly pick-up game of soccer in the neighborhood? Dental injuries can happen before you know it, and many could be avoided if the proper protective gear was worn.” Five million people in the U.S. lose teeth in sports mishaps each year, according to the American Dental Assistants’ Association (ADAA).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say more than half of injuries sustained during sport and recreational activities each year are suffered by children as young as five years old.

The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) says young athletes who fail to use mouth protectors are 60 times more likely to suffer dental trauma, but research by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) indicates that more than 80 percent of children don’t wear a mouthguard during organized sports.

Other studies suggest that mouth protectors prevent more than 200,000 high school and college injuries a year.

The American Dental Association says customized mouthguards are necessary across a broad range of sporting and recreational activities, including:

  • Football.
  • Weightlifting.
  • Surfing.
  • Boxing.
  • Gymnastics.
  • Acrobatics.
  • Basketball.
  • Field hockey, ice hockey, and roller hockey.
  • Skateboarding.
  • Skiing.
  • Soccer.
  • Squash.
  • Volleyball.
  • Wrestling.
  • Water polo.
  • Racquetball.
  • Handball.
  • Lacrosse.
  • Martial arts.
  • Rugby.

Finding the Best Mouthguard for Your Youngster

For a mouthguard to be effective, it must fit your child’s mouth properly to provide the best possible protection against injury. Several types of mouth shields are available in stores but none will offer a custom fit. A professionally-made, individualized mouthguard will fit perfectly without discomfort – so your youngster will want to wear it.

Investing in a professional-standard mouthguard for your child now can save you money later. The cost of dental treatment for a fractured tooth is far greater than that of a professionally-made mouthguard. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the cost of losing a tooth can be over $5,000.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a mouthguard for your child, including the level of impact involved in the sport your youngster plays. Your dentist can explain the various options available and offer advice tailored to your child’s specific needs.

A professionally-fitted mouth shield is particularly important if your youngster wears fixed braces, which could be damaged by an impact to the face. Retainers and other removable dental appliances should not be worn during sports or recreational activities that may put the mouth at risk.

If your child isn’t keen on the idea of wearing a mouthguard, it might help to show them pictures of their sporting heroes wearing mouth shields.

Like braces, mouthguards need to be kept clean and taken care of properly. After each use, they should be cleaned with a toothbrush and toothpaste and rinsed thoroughly with cool water.

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