WEST ALLIS, Wis. – As Wisconsinites emerge from a long winter and get ready for warm-weather sports and activities, Wisconsin’s dentists recommend that both children and adults make mouthguards part of their summertime sports gear.
The American Dental Association and WDA recommend that mouthguards be worn for any competitive or recreational sport in which impact, contact or collision are likely to occur. That includes summer favorites like basketball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby, water polo, in-line skating, baseball, bicycling, softball, volleyball and other contact and limited-contact activities.
“A proper-fitting mouthguard is the best way to reduce the risk of damaging your teeth while playing sports by helping to buffer an impact that would otherwise cause broken or knocked out teeth, jaw injuries or cuts to your mouth, said Dr. Christopher Johnson, a general dentist in Eau Claire and vice president of the Wisconsin Dental Association. “Mouthguards should be an essential piece of equipment from an early age, but it’s never too late to start wearing one. When correctly used and cared for, mouthguards can provide lasting protection for your entire mouth and save you from the hassle and expense of a major dental injury.”
The most effective mouthguard is comfortable, resistant to tearing and resilient. Mouthguards should fit properly, be durable, easily cleaned and not restrict speech or breathing. The WDA recommends these helpful tips for choosing and caring for a mouthguard:
- Choose the best one for you. A proper fit is key to ensure a mouthguard stays in place and provides maximum protection. Pre-formed stock products are affordable and easy to find, but often don’t properly fit your mouth. Boil and bite mouthguards can also be found at most retail and sporting goods stores, and offer a better, customizable fit you can form at home by following a few easy steps. A dentist can also create a tailor-made guard for the best fit, comfort and durability. Regardless of which you option choose, any mouthguard is better than none.
- Apply proper care. Mouthguards can retain bacteria after use, so appropriate sanitation and storage are important to reducing the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Before and after each use, rinse your mouthguard with cool water and/or scrub with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Store it in a sturdy, ventilated case to allow air circulation and be sure not to leave your mouthguard in the sun or hot water where it might lose its shape. You should also regularly check for tears, and replace entirely when necessary.
- Get the most out of it. To maintain its durability and effectiveness, do not chew on your mouthguard or cut pieces off it. Be sure to wear it during practice and not just in games, and remove all non-permanent appliances from your mouth, such as a retainer, before doing so. For those with braces or other fixed orthodontic appliances, regularly wearing a proper-fitting mouthguard can be especially important. It creates a barrier between your cheeks and lips, reducing risk of cuts should you get a blow to the face, and can prevent expensive repairs to those appliances.
- Consult your dentist. Your dentist will always provide you with the best oral health advice for your circumstances. If you’re in the market for a mouthguard, ask for their recommendation and more information. You can also bring the one you currently own for an evaluation to ensure it’s in good shape and still the best option for you. Make sure to see your dentist at least once each year, and to schedule an appointment if it’s been over six months.
“There are so many ways a mouthguard can help protect you when playing sports, whether you’re a professional athlete, playing for your school or just for fun,” Dr. Johnson said. “Many dental injuries are preventable with the right equipment, so it’s best not to chance it this season or beyond.”
For more information about mouthguards and your oral health, visit www.mouthhealthy.org.