On Guard! How Wearing a Mouthguard Helps to Protect Your Smile

On Guard! How Wearing a Mouthguard Helps to Protect Your Smile

If you’re an NBA fan (Go Trail Blazers!), no doubt you’ve seen professional basketball players wearing (and perhaps hurling) mouthguards. At East Portland Dentistry, we applaud athletes who protect their teeth and jaws from injury, and we encourage all athletes to wear – not throw – a mouthguard. But what if you’re not a pro athlete  playing in a fiercely competitive league where an inadvertent elbow can easily hit you in the mouth? Whether you’re a Portland Trail Blazer or a Portlander who blazes their own trail, athletes in both contact and non-contact sports – organized or recreational – need to be on guard against oral injuries.

The Many Benefits of Wear a Mouthguard

You wouldn’t step up to the plate without a bat or step onto the court without wearing shoes, so why would you ever consider suiting up to play a sport without wearing a mouthguard to help protect your oral health? Wearing a mouthguard during sports offers a number of advantages that include:

  • Mouthguards cushion a blow to the face, reducing the risk of broken or knocked out teeth.
  • Studies indicate that mouthguards reduce the risk of mild traumatic brain injures/concussions because they help absorb shock caused by a direct blow to the jaw.
  • Mouthguards protect the lips, tongue, and inner lining of the cheeks.
  • For those who have braces, mouthguards help prevent damage to brackets and also serve as a barrier between braces and the cheeks or lips, thus lowering the risk of gum injury.
  • Mouthguards help prevent damage to bridges and other fixed orthodontic appliances.
  • Repairing dental injuries is expensive, while the cost of a mouthguard is minimal in comparison.

Not All Mouthguards Are Created Equal: Ready-Made vs. Custom-Made

There are three types of mouthguards athletes can use to help protect their oral health. However, just as not all jump shots are as effective as Damian Lillard’s, not every type of mouthguard offers the same level of protection. So that you can make an informed decision on which type of mouthguard best suits your needs, lets break down the pros and cons of each type.

Stock Mouthguard

A stock mouthguard is the most basic type you can buy, and offers only minimal protection. They come in a variety of sizes, which can require some trail and error until you find one that comes the closest to providing you with an adequate enough fit. 

Pros:

  • Least expensive option available
  • Available for immediate purchase at sporting goods stores

Cons:

  • One-size-fits-all model (not designed for individual fit)
  • Often uncomfortable or intolerable
  • May cause difficulty in breathing and/or speaking
  • Bulky material may induce gagging
  • Least retentive, meaning that they often do not stay in place properly
  • Provide little protection

Boil and Bite Mouthguard

A boil and bite mouthguard offers better protection and an improved fit when compared to a stock guard. As the name suggests, this type of mouthguard needs to be heated in hot water until the plastic becomes soft. Once cooled, you need to bite down into the guard, which will cause the plastic to make a rough mold of your teeth. 

Pros:

  • Moderately inexpensive
  • Available for immediate purchase at sporting goods stores and drugstores
  • Offer a modicum of fit through the boil and bite process, which creates a rudimentary impression of the wearer’s teeth

Cons:

  • Any deviation from the manufacturer’s instructions may result in uneven distribution of material
  • Instability due to uneven distribution of material
  • Bite-through is common
  • Structural integrity decreases with time
  • Provide minimal protection

Custom-made Mouthguard

A custom-made mouthguard, such as what we can provide patients at East Portland Dentistry, offers the greatest level of protection, and is what every athlete should consider wearing to protect their oral health. 

Pros:

  • Professionally designed by a dentist to fit the specific contours of an individual’s mouth and jaw
  • Account for dentition and intra-oral anatomical features
  • Even distribution of material provides comfort and stability
  • Constructed from the highest grade materials
  • Provide ease of breathing and speaking
  • Bite-through is not common
  • Maintain structural integrity over time
  • Provide the highest level of protection

Cons:

  • Cost is higher than other types

The pros of a custom-made mouthguard greatly surpass those of a ready-made mouthguard.

At East Portland Dentistry, we understand that cost may be prohibitive for some patients. We urge patients to discuss financial concerns with our staff. Our general philosophy is that preventive care is more cost-effective than restorative care. A custom-made mouthguard is a worthwhile investment.

How to Protect Your Mouthguard

Protect any and all investments that you make in your teeth! While it may be common to see a professional athlete toss his or her mouthguard to the ground during rest periods, Dr. Arend recommends that patients protect their mouthguard against damage and follow sanitary guidelines by practicing the following tips:

  • Store and transport the mouthguard in a well-ventilated container to keep it dry and to keep bacteria from growing.
  • Store and transport the mouthguard in a sturdy plastic box to prevent structural damage.
  • Do not expose the mouthguard to heat or direct sunlight as both may melt the material, thus altering the fit and reducing protection.
  • Thoroughly brush the mouthguard (with a toothbrush and toothpaste) before and after each use. Do not use hot water.
  • Regularly check for signs of wear and tear. Discuss any signs of ill fit with your dentist.
  • Bring your mouthguard along when you visit your dentist for routine cleanings. At East Portland Dentistry, we will professionally clean your mouthguard and check its structure and fit.

Don’t let your or your child’s participation in sports result in dental injuries. As sports fans, we at East Portland Dentistry encourage athletes to hit the court, field, rink, and arena. Visit us soon so that we can give you a high five for your athletic achievements and build you a custom-made mouthguard so that you are geared up and ready to blaze all trails!

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