Mouthguards For Young Athletes: What You Should Know

Boy putting in his mouth guard

Youth sports have countless health benefits. Regular exercise reduces the risk of obesity, increases cardiovascular fitness, helps develop healthy bones and muscles, improves coordination and balance, and so much more. Playing team sports also teaches great life skills like leadership and communication skills, time management, respect, and teamwork.

But for all the health and developmental benefits of sports, there are also possibilities of injury to consider. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should avoid sports! Murfreesboro Family Dentistry is here to help learn the risks and take appropriate precautions.

The most common types of sports-related facial injuries include nose and mandible fractures as well as tooth trauma. More than 5 million teeth are damaged or lost each year during sports and athletic activities. The majority of these injuries involve damage to the top front teeth.

Besides the immediate pain and trauma, sports-related dental injuries can cause lost time from school and work, not to mention the costs! Some experts say a damaged or missing permanent tooth can cost up to $20,000 over a lifetime.

But there is a very simple and inexpensive way to prevent dental injuries: a properly fitted mouthguard! The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a mouth-guard for all children playing organized sports. Even non-contact sports like gymnastics, skateboarding, and mountain biking present a risk for damage to the face and mouth


Why wear a mouthguard during sports?

Anyone—both children and adults—who play organized sports should wear a soft mouthguard, especially if they play contact sports.

A mouthguard minimizes the risk of injuries to your lips, tongue, and soft tissue in your mouth. More significantly, they help prevent broken, chipped, or lost teeth and nerve damage.

The ADA estimates that athletes who wear mouthguards during sports are at least 82% less likely to suffer dentofacial injuries than athletes who chose not to wear mouthguards.


What sports require a mouthguard?

While every state and sports league has different rules and regulations, contact sports like football, boxing, and martial arts usually require youth participants to wear mouthguards. The ADA recommends wearing a mouthguard when there is any risk of sudden impact or jarring movement to the face or jaw.


Types of mouthguards

There are three categories of sports mouthguards on the market.

“Over the counter” mouthguards: The “OTC” mouthguards are available at most sporting goods stores and many pharmacies. They come in generic sizes and prices vary widely.

Most of the cheap mouthguards stay in place by clenching it between your teeth. This can make it difficult to breathe and speak and may promote teeth clenching and grinding habits. These mouthguards generally offer minimal protection, but they are better than nothing.

“Boil and bite” mouthguards: These mouthguards are made of a material that gets soft when put in hot water. The wearer forms the mouthguard to their mouth using their fingers, tongue, and bite pressure.

Because they tend to fit better, these mouthguards offer more protection than non-moldable OTC mouthguards. They are less likely to impede speech or breathing and can be molded over upper or lower teeth.

The ADA gave their seal of approval to the Game On mouthguard in this category. Overall, the “boil and bite” mouthguards are a great blend of protection and affordability.

Custom mouthguards: This is the most costly mouthguard on the market. But it is also the most effective. It is custom made by a dentist from an impression of the child’s mouth to achieve the perfect fit and maximum protection.


Mouthguards and braces

The potential for injury to your face, mouth, and teeth is greater when braces are involved. An injury with braces may require expensive treatment and repairs to both the teeth and braces.

A mouthguard for braces might be a little more expensive but it is worth every penny. It will protect your child’s teeth and soft tissue from damage and help avoid the extra costs of repairing broken braces and teeth.

If the sport or league does not require a custom mouthguard, purchasing a “boil and bite” mouthguard is a good option. Some brands make special mouthguards that give extra room to cover the braces while offering the same level of protection.

The custom, dentist-made mouthguards are expensive and, by definition, the braces are moving the child’s teeth around. In a few weeks or months, the mouthguard might not fit safely or comfortably any longer. But you should check with the coach or manager. In some cases, the players are covered by team or league insurance that will only cover injury or damage if the child wears a dentist-made mouthguard.

Be sure to talk with your dentist or orthodontist about the best mouthguard that will provide the right protection. If you have a retainer or other removable dental appliance, do not wear it while playing sports.


How long should a mouthguard last?

You should replace a mouthguard immediately if it shows signs of damage or it no longer fits properly. Most young athletes should replace their mouthguards after each sports season or about every six months. Mouthguards wear down over time and as the material weakens it becomes less rigid and less effective.

Regularly replacing mouthguards is especially important for youth and adolescents because their mouths are growing and changing quickly, especially if they wear braces. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of buying or having new mouthguards made at every 6-month checkup for youth and teens.


Proper care of mouthguards

It is important to keep your mouthguard clean and dry between uses. Regularly clean your mouthguard. Either clean it with cool, soapy water then rinse it thoroughly or brush it with a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Get in the habit of rinsing the mouthguard before and after each use. Store and carry your mouthguard in a container that has vents to keep it dry. These practices will prevent germs and bacteria from growing.

Never leave your mouthguard in hot water or in direct sunlight as this will break down the rubber materials.

Bring your mouthguard to each dental and orthodontic checkup so your dentist can evaluate it to make sure your teeth are adequately protected.

While you can’t avoid every sports-related injury, you can take proper steps to prevent them. Purchasing the right mouthguard is one of the easiest and cost-effective steps you can take to prevent injury to your mouth and teeth. Contact Murfreesboro Family Dentistry with any questions or to discuss the best mouthguard options for your active child.


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