You asked and we answered! Your top questions about mouthguards and safety during sports.
Sports Mouthguards: Be True to your Teeth or They’ll be False to YouWritten by Dr. C. Colby Gage, Orthodontist at Icon Orthodontics in SW Calgary.
With fall activities and sports fast approaching, you may be considering a mouthguard for your child. Read a professional recommendation for mouthguards, and how to choose what is right for your child and their safety.
Are mouthguards only for kids who play contact sports like hockey, football and rugby?
Over the years I have encountered all kinds of athletes that use mouthguards for various reasons. Mouthguards are recommended for all sports that could cause injury or risk to a child’s teeth, jaw or mouth. This list traditionally includes lacrosse, football, hockey, boxing, rugby, and martial arts, to name a few. Sports like biking, baseball, basketball and innertube water polo (okay, I made that last one up) can also result in injuries to the face and teeth so why not play it safe?
Do mouthguards protect against concussions?
Thanks to the movie “Concussion”, starring Will Smith, we have had many questions regarding ways to prevent against these debilitating injuries. Multiple studies over the past few years have all pointed to the same conclusion - it is very likely that mouthguards do not provide any protection against concussions. Surprising, right? This finding doesn’t mean we should throw out our mouthguards all together. What we understand about mouthguards is that they protect the teeth and lips from impacts and may also protect the jaw joint if it is hit during active play.
What types of mouthguards are available and which do you recommend?
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of different mouthguards in order to find out which one will best suit your child’s needs.
Stock Mouthguards: These mouthguards, easily found in stores and inexpensively purchased, provide some protection to the teeth and lips. Some thin mouthguards are appropriate for kids with braces or other oral appliances as the teeth are rapidly changing position. Overall, you get what you pay for with this mouthguard but it may be the best option for some situations.
Boil and Bite Mouthguards: These can be purchased in stores and are made of plastic that is heated up in hot water which then allows for the plastic to conform to the shape of your teeth as it cools in the mouth. Some companies use a high quality EVA plastic material that molds well around the teeth but these are high-priced and can be difficult to fit correctly. The advantage of this type is that they provide a fairly good fit within the comforts of home. It's like getting a salad at McDonalds - it's fast and probably the best option in a pinch.
Custom-fitted Mouthguards: I can create a mouthguard specifically for your child’s mouth. This type is beneficial as it provides the best fit and protection and has been reported to be the most comfortable and easiest to wear. Cost varies but usually these run close to the same price as a high end boil-and-bite mouthguard. In my own research working with Crossfit athletes, when comparing mouthguard types, custom mouthguards made the athletes feel more explosive and powerful while lifting weights. Similar studies have reported other performance and comfort-related benefits. Now that’s something to chew on! But seriously, don’t chew on your mouthguard...
When is my child old enough to wear a mouthguard?
At Icon Orthodontics, we provide mouthguards for children as young as six years old to provide protection and establish a good habit of wearing proper safety equipment. While there are many self-fit mouthguards available at your local sporting goods store, generally only custom-fit mouthguards are the right size for younger athletes. Keep in mind that teeth are coming in rapidly around age 8 so mouthguards would need to be replaced or refit at least one or two times a year.
Good habits start young - could you imagine playing football without a helmet? Or playing soccer without the shin guards? Or driving to the Northwest and not getting stuck in traffic near COP? Nope, neither can I. Your child should feel something missing when they are playing a contact sport and not wearing their mouthguard. Being on-call on the weekends has made me appreciate how many injuries happen during casual play outside of club games and practices- usually hockey players ditch their helmets and shields and just go out to have fun when they suddenly (and sometimes painfully) realize how much they rely on their safety equipment to have a good time.
C. Colby Gage DMD DHEd FRCD (C)
Diplomate American Board of Orthodontists.