Whether you call them a sports gum shield or a sports mouth guard, custom guards should be an essential part of your sporting attire, especially when playing contact sports.
Did you know, for example, that around one-third of all dental traumas and/or injuries are sports-related? That’s 200,000 injuries every year that could have been prevented by wearing a protective guard. These are injuries that include
So whether you play rugby, hockey, boxing or practice martial arts, gum shields/mouthguards are vital if you want to protect your teeth.
Of course, you can pay anything from a few pounds to £150 for one with a unique design, so how do you know what sports mouth guard to look for?
There are 3 different types of gum shield, so let’s take a closer look…
These are typically inexpensive and cost just a few pounds to buy. You can usually find them in most sporting goods stores, department stores, and pharmacies. Typically they’re made from rubber, polyvinyl chloride, or a polyvinyl acetate co-polymer and are available in limited sizes only. As a result they won’t create a great fit. In addition, they can be a little bulky and make breathing and talking difficult.
Boil and bite
Next up you have what are known as boil and bite mouthguards. These are a little more customisable because although they come in a preformed shape, that shape can be altered by placing them in boiling water. The idea is that the wearer then bites into the now soft plastic to create a more customised fit.
They can be found in most reputable sports shops but can still appear bulky and cumbersome as well as being a little hard to breathe around. Typically, you should expect to pay somewhere between £5 and £30 for this variety of sports gum shield.
Custom mouth guards
Finally, we have the crème de la crème in sports apparel in custom-made sports mouthguards. These are fabricated by dental professionals, either in a centralised dental lab or - if the dentist has the technology - at the dental practice itself. You won’t find these in any sports store, pharmacy, or supermarket.
Unsurprisingly, because your dentist fabricates the mouthguard based around a detailed impression, custom gumshields/mouthguards tend to provide the ultimate in protection and fit. The snug shape hugs the teeth, gums, and jaw making them comfortable and reassuring
In addition, these highly-personalised guards tend to be made from a heavy-duty thermoplastic material which makes them incredibly durable. However, although they won’t lose their shape like store-bought mouthguards can, you should look to change them every few years depending upon use.
Now you know the types of sports mouthguards and what they have to offer, it’s now time to clear up a little confusion. Namely, is there a difference between a sports gum shield and a dental night guard, or are they one in the same thing?
Both a sports mouth guard and a dental night guard are indeed designed to protect the teeth, but tha is where any similarities end.
Where a sports gum shield is desigtto protect the teeth and mouth in case of a sudden or hard impact, a dental night guard protects the teeth from getting worn down due to constant grinding or clenching.
As a result, a dental nightguard is usually made from a harder type of plastic able to withstand the continual rigours of grinding. Alternatively, sports mouthguards are made from a softer material designed to absorb the force a single impact.
Furthermore, while a nightguard only needs to cover the chewing (occlusal) surface of the teeth, a sports gum shield needs to cover the entire teeth and gums.
What this means is that it isn’t advisable to wear a sports mouthguard at night if you have teeth-grinding problems and likewise, don’t expect a dental mouthguard to offer up much protection if worn when playing sport.
So what can patients expect when they visit us for sports gumshields/mouthguards?
In other words…
Here at Cheadle Hulme Dental and Cosmetics we strongly believe in prevention. This is why our custom-made sports guards are of the highest quality materials. With this in mind, here is what you can expect when you pay us a visit:
Step 1 – The consultation
During a consultation with our experienced team, our dentist will talk to you about the sports you play in order to gauge the level of protection needed.
We’ll also discuss what you can expect and may even show you samples of what our custom mouthguards look like, so you get a feel for the end product.
Finally, we’ll also answer any questions or concerns you may have surrounding mouthguard hygiene and cleanliness, longevity, storage etc.
Once you’re happy to proceed, then it’s time for an impression.
Step 2 – Impression taking
Using dental putty we’ll take a dental impression of your mouth. This is so that any teeth crevices aren’t missed giving you a precise mould of your smile. This whole process takes around 15 minutes. Once the process is complete, you’re good to go.
In the meantime, we will send the dental impression to a local lab where your bespoke sports mouthguard gets fabricated. During the process, super-heated plastic is layered over the mould and once the exact structure has been formed, the mouthguard is cooled to set. This creates a super-strong and durable mouthguard.
The whole process takes around 1-2 weeks and once delivered back to our clinic; we’ll give you a call for your final fitting.
Step 3 – Final fitting
Naturally, we need to check if your sports mouthguard fits correctly, so we’ll call you in for a final fitting. Once you are happy, you’re good to go.
Irrespective of the type of mouthguard you choose, to avoid bacterial build-up, your mouthguard should be rinsed in cold water and air-dried every time you use it. It can also be cleaned with an antiseptic mouthwash. You can also use cleaning tablets and/or a soft toothbrush and toothpaste.
Other tips for better mouthguard care involve;
If you are contemplating buying a custom-fit mouthguard for peace-of-mind when playing sport, we invite you to come and talk to the team at Cheadle Hulme Dental and Cosmetics. We’ll discuss your needs and requirements to give you the sports mouth guard and ultimately, the protection you need. Contact us on 0161 486 0743 or visit our website to book your appointment today.
Dr Shi Karim is a Dental Phobia Certified dentist
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