Here’s a situation we often hear about at our office: A parent calls us up, very proud his or her child has decided to participate in some kind of sport or athletic endeavor … but at the same time, they are worried about the safety of their child’s teeth during contact sports. As well they might be! Injuries to the teeth and mouth are all too common in the course of playing certain sports, and two missing front teeth will probably not look great in a kid’s prom photos. So what’s a parent to do? Of course you don’t want to forbid a child from participating in sports just because he or she might injure his or her teeth, lips, tongue, or mouth! It’s a good thing, then, that mouthguards have become increasingly available to children and young adults.
But what is a mouthguard? Simply put, a mouthguard is a soft plastic protective device that covers the teeth and gums to reduce or prevent injury to the mouth during sports like football, basketball, martial arts, soccer, wrestling, field hockey, and many others. There are currently many kinds on the market, easily available at sporting goods stores or online. Typically, parents will encounter one of three distinct types: “Stock” mouthguards, which are ready-made, “boil-and-bite” types, which form to the mouth, and the custom-made sort that a parent may purchase from a pediatric dentist. All provide protection for your child from injuries to the mouth, and some even provide some protection from severe head injuries.
Even though your kid might think mouthguards are a little “gross,” actually, caring for a mouthguard is pretty easy. All it takes is rinsing it with cold water or some mouthwash before and after each use, and occasionally cleaning it with toothpaste and a toothbrush. Also, it’s a good idea to store your mouthguard in a firm but perforated container. This will protect the mouthguard from becoming crushed, and will allow air to circulate around it when it’s not in use. Other than that, protecting your investment is as easy as keeping it away from sources of high temperature, like hot water, direct sunlight, or hot surfaces, as heat can cause distortion of the mouthguard.
While there are many brands of mouthguard currently on the market, no one in particular will be vastly better than another. The important thing is going to the store and getting one – and getting your child to wear it! That can sometimes be the challenging part, so it’s a great idea to explain to your child that wearing a mouthguard will reduce to close to 100% of the likelihood that their mouth or teeth will be injured during sports. Remind them that their smile will be with them their whole life, and it’s important to care for it, even during the excitement of scoring a touchdown or trying to achieve a higher-level belt at karate class.
And as Dr. Cobb always says: good oral hygiene habits, combined with healthy food choices and bi-annual checkups are the best way to prevent tooth decay.