Mouth Guard. Do I Need One, and If so What Sort?
Do I Need a Mouth Guard?
If you are playing any contact sport then you definitely need a good quality mouth guard. So if you are playing Rugby League, Rugby Union, or Aussie Rules then yes that means you. Similarly if you are doing any of the combat sports such as Martial Arts, or Boxing, then yes you to. Hockey – definitely you.
Sports like Basketball and Soccer are trickier, but last year (2016) at least one Basketball player in Mackay lost a front tooth after being elbowed in the mouth contesting the ball.
But I can’t talk with a Mouth Guard in.
It is harder to talk with a mouth guard, but hundreds of professional footballers all over Australia are able to do it every weekend. A professionally made mouth guard will fit better which makes it easier to talk, and also to breathe when you are running or tired.
There are 3 broad types of mouth guards available:
- Boil and Bite style which are available from pharmacies and sport stores. These are the least expensive mouth guards but do have some limitations that we will cover later.
- Custom Mouth guards which are made at a dental surgery or by Dental Prosthetists. These are suitable for almost all people playing most sports.
- Bi-maxillary Mouth guards which fit over both sets of teeth and provide the maximum amount of protection. These are used by people playing high impact sports, often professionally and by those with a history of jaw fracture.
Boil and Bite Style Mouth Guards.
These are available from many Sports stores and some pharmacies. To fit them they are placed in a bowl of boiling water to soften them, and they are then molded over the teeth. Doing this can be harder than it looks. It can be hard to get the mouth guard to fit evenly over all the teeth which means it is often looser than other types of mouth guards. This makes it less comfortable to wear, more likely to be taken out, and also more likely to be moved if you are knocked in the mouth.
A trauma dentist once described it to me: “the boil and bite mouth guards are really good at catching the teeth when they are knocked out so that you can find them to put them back in.”
The moulding process can often lead to them being thinner over the front teeth, just where you are likely to get the greatest impact.
Therefore while this style of mouth guard does provide some protection, it is much less than is offered by other types.
Custom Mouth Guard
These mouth guards are made by a Dentist, a Dental Therapist or a Dental Prosthetist.
Impressions (moulds of the teeth) are taken and the mouth guard is made from the copy of your teeth. 2 or more layers of the mouth guard material are layered over the models and this lamination process gives a stronger, better fitting mouth guard which gives protection in the areas where it is needed most.
The thickness of the mouth guard depends on the age and size of the person, as well as what sport it is for.
A well made mouth guard reduces the chance of:
- Having teeth broken, moved or knocked out
- Jaw fractures, both upper and lower
- Damage to the jaw joint.
- It may also help protect against concussion depending on where the impact occurred
These mouth guards are recommended for almost everyone, except those who are playing extremely high impact sports at a high level or have previously broken their jaw. Wearing one of these mouth guards makes it far more likely you will survive heavy contact to the mouth unscathed.
Bi-Maxillary Mouth Guard
These are the most expensive and most complicated mouth guards to make. They cover both the top and bottom teeth and have a rubber wedge in between to act as a shock absorber. This means that they provide the maximum amount of protection, but they do make it harder to talk. They are generally used by people playing high contact sports, especially if they have a history of jaw fracture. They are not recommended in most situations.
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