A contact sport is one where there is an increased risk of physical contact between players. This risk is increased with speed and the use of bats or balls. The wearing of a mouth guard is essential for all contact sports. This includes: American football, bike riding, boxing, cricket, cycling, football, hockey, horse riding, hurling, ice hockey, ice skating, judo, kick boxing, lacrosse, martial arts, netball, roller skating, rounders, rugby, skate boarding, skiing and wrestling.
Protecting your assets
Studies have shown that between 13% and 39% of all dental injuries are sport related and about 1 in 4 children in the UK will injure and sometimes lose a front tooth at some stage. With numbers of contact sports participants on the increase, traumatic accidents resulting in dental injuries are also on the rise. Because of this, the dental profession as a whole is lobbying for the mandatory use of mouth guards for all school children or club players participating in contact sports. Some insurance plans will not pay out if damage occurs during contact sports, including training sessions, where a mouth guard has not been worn. According to the British Orthodontic Society, it is important for anyone with a brace to wear a mouth guard over their fixed brace to avoid lacerations to the mouth from the brace, to avoid damage to the brace and to prevent injury to the teeth. Fortunately the brace itself gives a lot of support to the teeth, so the main function of a mouth guard over a brace is to protect the brace and the mouth.
The first recorded use of a mouth guard was by boxers in the 1920’s. Professional boxing was the first sport to make mouth guards mandatory. In those days the mouth guard, or tooth guard as it was then called, was a thick, pre-formed semi circle of rubber which was worn over the top teeth. Technology has improved vastly since those early days of tooth protection, and companies are now fabricating mouth guards which are pliable and made from impact absorbing materials such as polyethylene vinyl acetate – this is an odourless, tasteless non toxic polymer, which offers resistance to abrasion. It is durable enough to last at least a whole season of sports competition and training. New mouth guards are designed to fit comfortably in the mouth and are not bulky, allowing easy speech, swallowing and breathing
Mouth guards and braces
The British Orthodontic Society advises that conventional mouth guards do not work with braces because the teeth are moving and the arches may be changing shape. This means that they will become ill fitting very quickly. Fortunately there are several different types of ortho guard/ mouth guards specially designed to fit over fixed braces. Dr Leydon, our orthodontist, will be able to supply an appropriate mouth guard or advise you where to obtain one.
Some companies make off the shelf ortho guard mouth guards for patients and braces which feature a channel or trough, to accommodate the brace and allow for tooth movement. We would be happy to supply sports clubs with these mouth guards.
Boil and bite mouth guards can be shaped to fit by softening in boiling water and then sucked to mould to the contours of the mouth. This means that as the teeth move, the mouth guard can be re-moulded to adapt to the new shape of the tooth.
Because of the movement of teeth during orthodontic treatment, a tailor made gum shield would need to be re-made frequently so may not be a viable option for the orthodontic patient unless the fixed appliance has been fully fitted before the mouth guard is made. The custom made mouth guard supplier would make the guard so it allows the teeth move during treatment and must instruct the user about how to modify the mouth guard if it becomes too tight. If a great deal of tooth movement takes place, wearers may need a second mouth guard after about a year’s treatment.
A good mouth guard should be comfortable, well-fitting and not prone to slipping out on impact. It should provide adequate thickness of material to reduce impact forces. When biting lightly on the guard, large areas of its biting surface should be in contact with the teeth and the opposing jaws minimising risk of jaw fracture.
Advocacy by the American Dental Association led to the mandatory use of mouth guards for high school football as early as 1962. Currently the US National Athletic Collegiate Association requires mouth guards for four sports: ice hockey, lacrosse, field hockey and football and recommends them for 29 others. In Ireland recently the GAA, the Gaelic Athletics Association, have agreed to provide free mouth guards for all inter-county players.
Taking care of your mouth guard
It is important to look after the mouth guard to ensure its longevity and continued effectiveness. It should be rinsed with cold water or a mouth wash before and after each use and or cleaned with toothpaste and a toothbrush. Occasionally the mouth guard should be washed more thoroughly in cool soapy water and rinsed thoroughly. It should be placed in a firm perforated container to store and transport it. This permits air circulation and prevents damage. The mouth guard should be protected from high temperatures such as hot water, hot surfaces or direct sunlight to minimise distorting it’s shape. Before use it should checked in good light for any visible tears, particularly if the material is becoming worn or thin. The user should also identify any rough areas which may indicate any splits or cracks. This can be done by running a finger along the non fitting surface of the guard which comes into contact with the opposing teeth. This surface must also be checked for damage following a heavy blow to mouth or jaw. No mouth guard lasts forever. This is particularly important for children who are still growing and for those who wear orthodontic braces.