Children and teens are playing competitive sports more than ever before. With all of the research coming out involving sports related injuries, parents are rightfully concerned about the impact these athletic pursuits could have on their health. The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety says that athletes who are not wearing a mouth guard are 60 times more likely to suffer damage to their teeth in a sports related injury and that one-third of dental injuries are sports related.
Some may not realize that there is more than one type of mouth guard on the market and they aren’t all created equally.
Boil and Bite
These are sold in sports stores and big box retailers around the nation. They are probably the most well-known type of mouth guard and most commonly used by child and teen athletes. After boiling the mouth guard in hot water, it’s placed in the mouth and bitten so it can attempt to form around the teeth of the one who will be wearing it. Even with this DIY custom fitting, they still never seem to sit right in the mouth and most report they are very uncomfortable.
Truly grab-and-go, these mouth guards are ready for wear right out of the package (after washing them, of course). However, because they aren’t fitted even the slightest, they are often bulky, uncomfortable and make it hard to speak and sometimes even breathe efficiently. Some professionals have reported that they’ve found that about 80% of store bought mouthguards are ineffective.
Far superior to any over-the-counter alternative, these mouth guards require a trip to the dentist. This is because they are fit to seamlessly guard the teeth, jaw and entire mouth with maximum protection. The American Dental Association recommends custom fitting mouth guards for most contact sports and for sports played on hard surfaces that carry a risk of injury. Studies are showing that using a custom fit mouth guard instead of an over-the-counter one can actually reduce the occurrence and severity of concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
Dr. Ken Collins, DDS, leading Spokane area dentist says,
“Some custom fit mouth guards are so advanced that safeguarding the teeth are only one of their functions. They also focus on balancing the jaw muscles and bite. In turn, this helps open up the airways and improve both balance and reaction time. Ideally, these mouth guards not only keep their teeth protected, but they also can improve their overall performance.”
The Academy for Sports Dentistry says that the most effective mouth guard is one that has been properly fit by a dental professional. Whichever route is chosen, remember that children and teenagers have mouths that are still growing, so it’s important to check often for proper fit. Mouth guards are just as important to the health and wellbeing of athletes as every piece of their gear. They should not only be worn during games but also at every practice. Teaching good habits young will encourage safe choices into adulthood that could be the difference between a major injury and a minor shake up.
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