Whether you are a serious or “weekend” athlete, you know the importance of protecting yourself against injury. While looking after your joints, ligaments and bones may garner most of your attention, you shouldn't neglect looking after your teeth and mouth as well. In fact, there are more than 600,000 emergency room visits each year for sports-related dental injuries. A knocked out tooth could eventually cost you $10,000 to $20,000 in dental treatment during your lifetime.
The best protection is really quite simple — wear a properly-fitted athletic mouthguard. Researchers estimate that mouthguards may prevent more than 200,000 dental injuries annually. Be aware, though — not all mouthguards are alike or provide the same level of protection.
Mouthguards generally fall into three types. Stock mouthguards are the least expensive of the three, and also the least effective at protection. They come in limited sizes and can't be customized to the wearer. “Bite and Boil” mouthguards are made of thermoplastic that becomes pliable when heated (as when boiled in water). In this state the mouthguard can be pressed into the wearer's teeth, which hardens to that fit once the thermoplastic cools. However, the fit isn't exact and they don't always cover the back teeth. Also during the heat of competition, the mouthguard softens and loses some of its stability and protection.
While more expensive than the other two types, a custom-fitted mouthguard made by a dentist provides the best level of protection. Made of a tear-resistant material, they are more comfortable to wear than the other types and cover more of the interior of the wearer's mouth.
A properly fitted and worn mouthguard protects the mouth and jaw area in a number of ways. It cushions the soft tissue of the lips and gums from cuts and abrasions caused by contact with sharp teeth surfaces after an impact. It absorbs and distributes forces generated in an impact that can cause tooth loss or even jaw fracture, and also cushions the jaw joint (TMJ) to reduce the likelihood of dislocation or other trauma.
A custom-fitted mouthguard can cost hundreds of dollars, but that price is relatively small compared with the physical, emotional and financial price you'll pay for an injury. This investment in your oral health is well worth it.
If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”