Mouth guards: Sports equipment that protects the smile

  • Published
  • By American Dental Association
  • 55th Dental Squadron
It's easy to take some things for granted until they're suddenly gone. Have you ever thought about how it would feel if you lost one or two of your front teeth?

You'd probably avoid smiling. It would be uncomfortable talking with someone face-to-face. It wouldn't be easy pronouncing certain words. And how about eating an apple? Until your teeth are gone, you might not miss them.

Each year, thousands of people get hurt on the playing field, the basketball court, or while skateboarding, biking or during other activities. Blows to the face in nearly every sport can injure your teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue.

A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can protect your teeth and smile. You may have seen them used in contact sports, such as football, boxing and ice hockey. However, you don't have to be on the football field to benefit from a mouth guard.

New findings in sports dentistry show that even in non-contact sports such as gymnastics, rollerblading and field hockey, mouth guards help protect teeth. Many experts recommend that a mouth guard be worn for any recreational activity that poses a risk of injury to the mouth.

There are three types of mouth guards: ready-made, or stock, mouth guard; mouth-formed, commonly known as boil and bite, mouth guard; and the custom-made mouth guard made in the dental office. All three types of mouth guards offer good protection but vary in comfort and convenience.

The stock mouth guard provides the least customized fit because it's ready for use straight out of the package. It is also the most convenient for this same reason.

The boil and bite mouth guard offers a higher degree of comfort because it can be made to shape to the athlete's teeth when the manufacturer's instructions are followed properly. This type of mouth guard is available, free of charge, at the dental clinic; field house; health and wellness center; and youth center.

The custom-made mouth guard is made specifically for you in the dental office from a mold of your teeth. This type is considered to have superior fit and comfort. Active duty members, who wish to have a custom mouth guard, can contact the 55th Dental Squadron at 294-3212.

The most effective mouth guard should be resilient, tear-resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable and easy to clean, and not restrict speech or breathing. A dentist can suggest the right mouth guard for you. Have regular dental checkups and bring your mouth guard along so the dentist can make sure it's still in good condition.

Don't take your teeth for granted. Protect your smile with a mouth guard!