Ask any dentist, and they’ll say mouth guards are essential when playing sports. Why? Of all the oral injuries they see every year, 13 to 39% are sports-related. Furthermore, the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety finds that athletes who fail to wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to experience a dental injury.

Sports can lead to collisions with other players, the ground, and flying objects like balls and bats. Wearing a mouth guard prevents many possible injuries to the face and mouth – chipped or broken teeth and jaw bones, root damage, and cuts to soft tissues. They’re especially designed to cover and absorb impact to the upper teeth, where 80% of all dental injuries occur.

When to Wear Mouth Guards

So mouth guards should be worn during high-contact sports like football, hockey and wrestling, right? Yes, and more. You can still experience serious oral injuries during other sports and activities like gymnastics or skating. Based on injury statistics, the American Dental Association recommends wearing mouth guards for a much fuller list of sports.

Types of Mouth Guards

Before you run out and buy the cheapest mouth guard you can find, consider the features of the three main types:

  • Good – Stock mouth guards run as cheap as $5, but you’ll get what you pay for. While they’re better than nothing, they tend to be bulky, fit poorly, and slide around or fall out easily.
  • Better – A better option is called a boil and bite mouth guard. This kind is softened before insertion, allowing it to conform to the shape of the mouth. A little more expensive than stock guards, they’re available at many sporting goods and drugstores.
  • Best – The best type of mouth guard is one that’s custom-fit by a dentist. Although they can cost more than other options, they provide the best protection and fit. Custom-fit guards are ideal for those with braces or bridges, since they need to fit well to protect the braces and prevent them from hurting your cheeks or lips.

Mouth Guard Care

To function best, mouth guards should be kept in good condition and replaced whenever they show signs of wear (or every season). It’s also important to wash them in cold, soapy water after every use, keep them away from heat, and store them in dry but ventilated containers.

Most of all, take your mouth guard with you to dental checkups at Peppermint Dental & Orthodontist so a professional can clean it, examine it, and make recommendations based on your individual needs.