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When school starts so do sports. Protective gear is part of the game but mouth guards are often overlooked, especially in athletics that are perceived as non-contact sports. We spoke with Dr. James E. Smith of Triangle Dentistry – Smith, Tart & Associates, on the importance of protecting your teeth while playing sports.
Why are mouth guards important in sports?
Mouth protection is often the most overlooked part of athletic equipment. There are two primary sources of dental trauma: a direct blow to the mouth from an instrument, body part, or projectile and inter-arch contact when teeth are banged against each other during a collision. Having a soft device covering the teeth can often minimize the force of these traumas and decrease the incidence of fracture.
What sports do you believe need properly sized mouth guards?
We try to get patients and parents thinking in broad terms of what is possible across various sports. Contact sports such as football, hockey, and basketball are usually the first to come to mind, but soccer and baseball can be equally dangerous. Also, any person engaging in an activity requiring a helmet (such as horseback riding or cycling) would benefit from wearing an athletic mouth guard. Significant dental trauma and concussions often occur from sports that are often regarded as “non contact”.
Do you need a guard to be custom fitted or can you use a generic one?
There’s no substitute for having an appliance that is professionally fitted by your dentist, but certainly an over-the-counter version does offer some protection. Dentists typically use a thermoplastic sheet that is vacuum fitted to precisely adapt to the patient’s size and alignment. Generic materials can vary greatly and often lack comfort and stability, but many times we encourage these if a patient is in transitional dentition or undergoing orthodontic treatment.
If you can’t afford a custom guard is there a brand you recommend?
There are many versions available, but we encourage patients to look for ones that are sized and easily customizable. Shock Doctor and Under Armour are two of the more recognizable brands, and several manufacturers even offer a dental warranty on accidents.
How much do they cost?
Over the counter versions can cost anywhere between $10 and $50 depending on the material and manufacturer. A professionally made custom appliance from your dentist typically runs between $100 and $200.
How long do they last?
Yearly replacement is only encouraged with our young athletes who are still developing. Teeth position and jaw size change just like height and weight until whatever age growth is complete. We usually wait until any orthodontic treatment is complete before considering a professional appliance. A custom athletic guard made by your dentist can easily last five years or more. At Triangle Dentistry, we offer versions made by Pro-Form and Under Armour. Impressions and bite records are made to ensure proper fit and sizing. Both offer excellent protection and come in several styles and colors.
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