What is a Mouth Guard?
Frequently utilized when playing sports, mouth guards are coverings on the teeth purposely worn to shield them away from possible, unwarranted injury.
Why is a Mouth Guard important?
Minimizes dental injuries
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.
In a study conducted on a Florida-based high school basketball team, 31 percent of the response sustained orofacial injuries during a season. The study concluded that the risk of sustaining orofacial injury without a mouth guard increases by almost seven-fold.
Based on research, all athletes are susceptible to dental trauma. A player has ten percent chance of suffering an orofacial injury every season of play. Also, during their playing career, athletes have 33 to 56 percent chance of getting an orofacial injury.
Mouth guards are important to athletes particularly because of the high chance of being injured while playing. Also, mouth guards prevent dental-related injuries like teeth fracture, luxation, avulsion, and jaw injury.
They also act as a shock absorber which can prevent injuries. Aside from this, using mouth guards in sports prevent a concussion due to a head-related injury.
Protects orthodontic appliances
If you are wearing braces and other orthodontic tools, mouth guards can help safeguard them.
By preventing injuries and worst-case scenarios with mouth guards, athletes can save money from dental treatments. According to data, treatment for avulsed teeth has recorded nearly 500 million US dollars in spending.
Helps with Teeth Grinding
Aside from sports, mouth guards can also help in preventing cracks or fractures to the teeth due to teeth grinding.
Mouth Guards and Sleep Apnea
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 are the types of Mouth Guards?
There are three types of mouth guards 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-fitted, boil and bite, and stock.
Custom-fitted mouth guard
This type of mouth guards is highly recommended by dental professionals.
In a study published in the General Dentistry, fewer athletes suffered from mild traumatic brain injuries when wearing custom-fitted mouth guards compared to over-the-counter mouth guards.
The custom-fitted mouth guard is customized to suit each individual and designed by a professional. A Honolulu dentist will check your teeth and mold over the model using a special material.
Custom-fitted mouth guards are pricier. They may amount to approximately 300 US dollars due to the extra work, time and special material involved in their creation. Though they are heavier in the pocket, they offer ultimate protection and comfort to the user.
Boil-and-bite mouth guard
This type of mouth guard is available in sporting goods store and manufactured using thermoplastic. Boil-and-bite mouth guards can be molded around the teeth to acquire the fit by putting them in hot water to soften.
Stock mouth guards
The stock type can be bought approximately at 10 US dollars. This type of mouth guards is pre-formed. It is also ready to use and found in department stores or sporting goods.
But, despite its cheaper price, stock mouth guards 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.
What should I consider when getting a mouth guard?
Regardless of the type, opt for an efficient protector. A mouth guard must have the capability to resist tears and provide comfort. It must also be convenient to use and does not hamper your speech or breathing.
Mouth guards are usually designed for the upper teeth. But, in some cases, mouth guards for the lower teeth may be designed. Mouth guards for the lower teeth help the patient who wears fixed dental appliance on his lower jaw or is using braces.
How can I take care of my mouth guard?
To maximize the usage of your mouth guard and avoid bacteria from infecting it, proper care and management are necessary.
- Thoroughly rinse the mouth guard with 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 mouth guard causes discomfort and does not fit anymore, replace it.
- Keep it away from direct sunlight or high temperature to avoid shape distortion.
- Consult with your dentist to ensure that the mouth guard 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.
Regular dental checkups are recommended to detect these concerns early.