Oh, My Guard! The Many Ways Mouthguards Protect You

woman putting on a mouthguard

If you’re a fan of contact sports, like boxing, hockey, or basketball, you’ve probably seen your favorite players’ mouths look a bit…weird. It’s like they’re hiding something between their lips and teeth. Those are mouth guards.

An issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that 13 to 39 percent of all dental injuries are sports-related. So, it’s not surprising that mouthguards are one of the most important pieces of protection for athletes. But what do mouthguards actually guard against?

Mouth Guards: The Basics

Typically made of the thermoplastic Ethylene-vinyl acetate or EVA, mouth guards cover the upper teeth and gums. They help cushion blows to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth, as well as injuries to the inner lip and tongue.

According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth without using mouth guards. Imagine if you simply wanted to get a little exercise playing basketball one afternoon and you end up losing your two front teeth because you got elbowed. This is why mouthguards are an essential piece of athletic gear.

However, not all mouthguards are created the same. There are three types, which are:

  • Stock or Ready-Made

This type of mouthguard is in a pre-formed shape but manufactured in various sizes. This doesn’t allow for adjustments to fit your mouth’s shape.

  • Boil-and-Bite

This type of mouthguard is also in a pre-formed shape made with a thermoplastic material that, when heated with boiling water, can be molded to adapt to the shape of your mouth.

  • Custom-Made

Today’s technological advances have made the custom fabrication of orthodontic supplies, like mouthguards, possible. Your dentist will take an impression of your teeth and send it to a dental laboratory, which will fabricate a custom mouthguard that fits the precise shape of your mouth.

What Mouth Guards Guard Against

Apart from making sure the teeth stay intact, mouthguards also protect against the following:

1. TMJ Trauma

The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the skull, aiding in important processes like chewing and making facial expressions. A properly fitted mouthguard cushions against blows to the face that can cause the TMJ to fracture or be displaced.

2. Lacerations

Have you ever chipped your tooth when you were younger and you didn’t realize it until there’s a metallic taste of blood in your mouth?

The contrast of your sharp teeth against the soft tissues of your gums, tongue, cheeks, and lips can easily cause lacerations inside your mouth. This easily happens when you suffer a blow to the mouth. But with a mouthguard on, you decrease the chances of your teeth damaging the soft tissues in your mouth.

3. Concussions

man with concussion being treated

Concussions are common in contact sports like football. Unfortunately, concussions may lead to brain damage. While helmets are a huge help, not all sports require them.

But, a discreet and properly fitted mouthguard creates space between the jaw and the base of the skull. This prevents the jawbone from slamming into the skull and creating shockwaves to the brain, which cause concussions.

We all know that most sports are physical and injuries aren’t uncommon. But, it doesn’t mean you or your family member have to suffer from them. With this knowledge of mouthguards, hopefully, you can protect you or your loved one’s mouth and overall wellbeing.