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19 January 2024

Sports Dentistry: The Importance of Mouthguards in Protecting Your Smile

Were you aware that nearly 15 percent of all visits to the dentist’s office were the result of some type of traumatic injury? 

From a simple chipped tooth to more serious scenarios that might require immediate intervention, the risks are very real. 

The good news is that many of these situations can be prevented with a bit of foresight. This is the main reason why the use of custom-made mouthguards has become so popular.

More than Protecting the Teeth and Gums Alone

Most of us will immediately associate mouthguards with their ability to safeguard the teeth from sudden traumatic damage. This is why they have become commonplace with sports associated with high levels of physical contact such as mixed martial arts, boxing, football, and rugby. 

However, the level of protection that these clever devices can offer goes far beyond what may initially meet the eye. 

One surprising role of a mouthguard is to prevent any harm to the TMJ (temporomandibular) joint. The material used in a mouthguard will provide a cushioning effect and lessen the chances that the jaw or the surrounding muscles will succumb to an injury. 

A mouthguard is just as useful in terms of protecting the soft tissues that surround the teeth. These include the lips, the gums, the inner cheeks, and the entire area around the mouth. 

This is one of the main reasons why children and adolescents are obligated to use a mouthguard when playing certain league sports. Anyone currently undergoing orthodontic treatment will likewise be required to purchase a mouthguard. 

What Types of Mouthguards are Available?

A mouthguard will generally fall within one of two categories:

  • “Boil-and-bite”
  • Custom-fitted

As the name suggests, a boil-and-bite mouthguard will essentially be moulded around the inner contours of the mouth after it has been immersed within warm water. 

The user bites down on the material and as it cools, it will permanently adhere to the configuration of one’s teeth. Although these are quite common, they tend to be inferior to custom-made alternatives. This type of mouthguard can still cause injuries to the gums and in severe cases, even chipped teeth. 

This is the reason why most sports dentistry professionals recommend purchasing a custom-made mouthguard. The main benefit here is that these devices will mirror the exact dimensions of one’s mouth — providing an absolutely secure fit. 

The materials used are likewise more advanced. A custom mouthguard is often comprised of a hard outer layer (for additional protection) alongside a softer inner layer (so that the user can enjoy superior levels of comfort). Note that custom-made variants are sometimes available in alternative materials for those who may be allergic to acrylic. 

What About Performance-Enhancing Mouth Wear?

This is one of the newest advancements and yet another way to prevent common sports injuries. The primary intention here involves understanding how the relationship between the jaw and the skull can have an impact upon athletic performance. 

It is thought that a properly aligned jaw will enable an athlete to increase his or her overall efficiency. If a sudden impact does indeed occur, it is also much less likely that this scenario will result in a serious injury. 

While this is a rather new concept, preliminary research already suggests that this type of mouthguard can offer many of the benefits mentioned in the previous paragraph. 

The only possible issue is that performance-enhancing mouth wear can be rather expensive, especially when purchased from well-known brand names such as Under Armour. It will be interesting to see the future of this type of mouthguard. 

How are Sports Injuries Typically Treated?

Let’s say you didn’t remember to wear a mouthguard and suffered an acute injury to the mouth. How will a dentist perform treatment? 

In many ways, the approach would be similar to any other type of standard injury. The only possible difference could involve the urgency and the time frame. For instance, a boxer may need to be fitted with a temporary appliance (such as a bridge) before an upcoming fight. It will then be possible to obtain a permanent solution. 

Another issue with sports injuries is that they can be quite varied. While chipped teeth are relatively common, these are far from the only scenarios that a dentist will treat on a regular basis. For example, a rugby player may trip and fall; resulting in one or more teeth lacerating the gums. It is likewise not entirely uncommon for an MMA (mixed partial arts) fighter to suffer a broken jaw after being kicked in the head. In either of these cases, more in-depth intervention may be warranted. It is once again clear to understand the protective nature of modern mouthguards. 

Consult with a Sports Dentist

Those who regularly play any type of contact sport should make it a point to speak with a sports dentist. These athletes are keenly aware of the latest technology and they are also able to provide targeted solutions based around the needs of the client in question. 

Furthermore, they can make individual recommendations in accordance with the specific sports as well as personal preferences. Considering the fact that we are born with only a single set of teeth, it pays to protect them at all costs. 

On a final note, anyone who might have recently injured their mouth should schedule an appointment with their dentist at the earliest possible convenience. This is the best way to prevent more serious situations and to ensure a healthy smile that lasts years into the future. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341757/
  2. https://www.yourdentistryguide.com/sports-dentistry/
  3. https://aestheticdentalclinic.com.au/boil-bite-mouthguards/
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