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Playing Contact Sports? Why You Need a Mouthguard

August 18, 2017

This blog was written in conjunction with Daryl Osbahr, MD. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 600,000 people end up in the emergency room each year because of sports-related dental injuries.

If you play a contact sport, you need to protect your mouth with a mouthguard, which typically provides protection for the upper teeth. Playing without this protection could lead to serious injury to your teeth, tongue, cheeks and other areas of your mouth. Here’s why you shouldn’t hit the field or the court without one:

They Protect Your Teeth

There are several types of mouthguards, including those that can be customized and molded to fit your mouth (boil and bite), those that are custom made by a dentist, and stock mouthguards you can purchase off the shelf at a local sporting goods store.

Whatever mouthguard you choose, the important thing is that you don’t play without it. Mouthguards reduce the risk that you’ll injure your gums, cut your lip, fracture or dislocate your tooth —or even worse, lose several teeth. Mouthguards provide a barrier between you and the impact of potential contact. If you recently watched the NBA playoffs and saw Boston Celtics’ guard Isaiah Thomas lose a front tooth after accidentally being hit in the mouth by an opposing player, then you’ll understand the risks that come with not wearing a mouthguard.

They Protect Your Braces

If you have braces and play sports, you shouldn’t think twice about wearing a mouthguard. Contact could damage your braces, bridge, retainer or any other semi-permanent orthodontic care you’ve received.

Before you purchase a mouthguard, talk to your dentist about which type of product to buy or ask whether a custom-made piece may provide better protection for your dental work.

They Need to be Replaced

To properly care for and extend the use of your mouthguard, make sure to wash it after every use and store it in clean container with vents that allow air to escape. This can prevent the buildup of bacteria and other germs.

Also, mouthguards need to be replaced at the end of every sports season, particularly for young athletes. Younger players grow from year to year and their mouth changes, so last season’s mouthguard may not provide the same protection, and it may not be clean enough to continue to use. Sometimes mouthguards might wear down even before the sports season is over, so it’s best to take them to your dentist during an upcoming visit so he or she can determine whether your mouthguard has worn out its use. 

According to the American Dental Association, use of mouthguards could prevent more than 200,000 mouth-related oral injuries each year, including injuries to the teeth, gums, and tongue. Unfortunately, one injury that mouthguards cannot prevent is sports-related concussion.  Regardless of how stable the mouth and jaw are during a collision, the brain can still be injured by moving rapidly within the skull.  Some athletes may choose not to wear mouthguards because they say they’re uncomfortable, they make it difficult to communicate with teammates or coaches during games, or because they hamper breathing when an athlete plays.  If needed, a custom-made mouthguard can address many of these issues. Wearing a mouthguard should be no different than carrying a hockey stick, knee pads or a pair of sneakers with you to practice or play — it’s a piece of sports equipment that’s as necessary as any other.

If you plan to play, use a mouthguard. It’s better to be safe than ultimately sorry that you’ve lost your front teeth.

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