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Mouth Guard: Uses, Types, And Proper Care | Hawaii Family Dental

If your child plays sports, consider keeping dental emergencies at bay by using a mouthguard. In the Management of Dental Trauma in a Primary Care Setting, the study noted that 30% of children had experienced dental injury by 14. She notes that the injured child goes to a physician or pediatrician instead of a dentist because few emergency departments have a dentist on-call. Without the right measures in place, this may complicate the healing process, as the injured tooth usually has a limited time frame for survival.

For this reason, most pediatricians and pediatric dentists may prescribe preventive measures to lessen this risk, mainly if the child is active in sports. How, then, can you prevent dental trauma during sporting events?

Why is a Mouth Guard important?

They minimize injuries to the mouth. Out of the five million avulsed teeth each year, sports-related dental injuries comprise 13 to 39 percent of the total count.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has mandated the use of mouth guards in sports. Yet, only four sports were included in the list of the Federation’s mandate such as football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and field hockey.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has recommended mouth guards for all children and youth participating in organized sports activities. The American Dental Association has also called for the wearing of mouth guards in 29 sports, including boxing, volleyball, rugby, basketball, and gymnastics.

Mouthguards are essential to athletes, particularly because of the high chance of injury while playing. Also, mouthguards prevent dental-related injuries like tooth fracture, luxation, avulsion, and jaw injury. In a study done on a Florida high school basketball team, 31 percent of the response sustained orofacial injuries during a season. The study found that the risk of sustaining orofacial injury without a mouthguard increase by almost seven-fold.

Mouthguards also act as a shock absorber which can prevent injuries or at least the intensity of such. Aside from this, using mouthguards in sports prevents a concussion due to a head injury. By preventing injuries and worst-case scenarios with mouthguards, athletes can save money from dental treatments; nearly $500 million are spent on emergency dental care each year. 

There are three types of mouthguards people can use. Slight differences in fit, adjustments, and price characterize each category but perform the same function of protecting the teeth. The types include custom-fit, boil-and-bite, and stock.

Custom-Fit Mouthguards: Dental professionals often recommend this type of mouthguard. In a study, fewer athletes suffered from mild traumatic brain injuries when wearing custom-fitted mouthguards than over-the-counter mouthguards.

A custom mouthguard is customized to suit each individual and is designed by a professional. Thus, they make for a perfect fit. However, custom mouthguards are pricier. They may amount to approximately 300 US dollars due to the extra work, time, and unique material involved in their creation. Though they are heavier in the pocket, they offer ultimate protection and comfort for the user.

Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards: This type of mouthguard is available in sporting goods stores and manufactured using thermoplastic. Boil-and-bite mouth guards can be molded around the teeth to acquire the fit.

Stock Mouthguards: A stock mouthguard can be bought for approximately just 10 US dollars. This type of mouthguard is pre-formed. It is also ready to use and found in department stores or sporting goods.

But despite its lower price, stock mouthguards may pose problems to the users. They are not easily adjustable and may result in difficulty in speech. This type is also less recommended by dentists since it only provides little protection.

Helps with Teeth Grinding

Aside from sports, mouth guards can also help in preventing cracks or fractures to the teeth due to teeth grinding.

Aside from athletes, mouth guards are also helpful to people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a medical condition associated with temporary oxygen shortages that last for at least ten seconds during sleep.

The oxygen deficiencies are the effect of air flow blockage. They may also be caused by a loss in stability and inward relaxation of soft tissues and muscles in the back of the throat while sleeping.

Lack of oxygen supply interrupts the body. It prompts the brain to pull the person from sleep to reopen the airway and resume normal breathing. If untreated, OSA can lead to complications to other infirmities like diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart-related problems, insomnia, acid reflux and worst, death.

People suffering from OSA can receive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP uses a machine to help the OSA sufferer breathe more easily during sleep.

Use of a mouth guard-like device usually referred to as an oral appliance may also be employed. The mouth guards are recommended for patients with mild to moderate case of OSA and have difficulty responding to CPAP.

The mouth guard is custom-fitted in a dental office to fabricate a specifically designed lower and upper protector. The oral appliances come in two forms namely tongue restraining devices (TRD) and mandibular advancement devices (MAD).

TRD controls the tongue from reclining to the back of the throat, improving the patency of the upper airway. On the one hand, MAD clasps the lower and upper teeth, like that of conventional mouth guards. This type of oral appliance repositions the lower mandible or jaw in an advanced position. It will then pull the tongue forward since it rests on the front of the lower jaw.

These oral appliances are not recommended with severe OSA. Also, the procedure must be done by experienced and trained dental practitioners since extensive knowledge and familiarity are needed.

What should I consider when getting a mouthguard?

Regardless of the type, opt for an efficient protector. A mouthguard must have the capability to provide comfort. It must also be convenient to use and must not hamper your speech nor breathing. Wearing a mouthguard should not be painful.

Mouthguards are usually designed for the upper teeth. But in some cases, mouthguards for the lower teeth may be created. Mouthguards for the lower teeth help the patient who wears fixed dental appliance on his lower jaw or uses braces.

How can I take care of my mouthguard?

To maximize your mouthguard usage and avoid bacteria from infecting it, proper care and management are necessary.

  • Thoroughly rinse the mouthguard with a mouth rinse or cold water before and after use.
  • Clean it with a toothbrush and mild soap or toothpaste.
  • Store it in a perforated and firm container, which allows air circulation,
  • If the mouthguard causes discomfort and does not fit anymore, replace it.
  • Please keep it away from direct sunlight or high temperature to avoid shape distortion.
  • Consult with your dentist to ensure that the mouthguard is right for you.

Using oral appliances may have some side effects like saliva accumulation and teeth tenderness. Teeth movements, problems with the mandible muscles and joint, and changes in the bite may also be observed over time.

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