Protecting your teeth with mouth guards

  • Published
  • By Kendra Haynes, RDH, BS
  • 55th Dental Squadron
Knowing how to prevent injuries is important when you, or your child, participate in organized or recreational activities.

Whether you are involved in contact sports like football or wrestling or non-contact sports such as gymnastics or weightlifting, wearing a mouth guard can offer significant protection.

How would you feel if you lost one or two of your front teeth while participating in one of these activities? Wearing a mouth guard can help prevent such injuries. Athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to their teeth when not wearing a mouth guard. They help buffer a blow to the face, lips, tongue, teeth and jaw; and may even help reduce the rate and severity of concussions.

There are three different types of mouth guards:
  • ready-made, or stock
  • boil and bite
  • custom-made by a dentist
All types of mouth guards offer some degree of protection but the sport you play may determine which type would offer the most protection. An effective mouth guard should be resilient, tear resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly and not limit your speech or breathing. Generally the mouth guard will cover only the upper teeth, but some activities such as boxing and karate may require a mouth guard that fits over both upper and lower teeth. The American Dental Association and the International Academy for Sports Dentistry recommends a properly fitted mouth guard be worn for the activities listed in the box below.

Sports which may require a mouth guard:

     1. Acrobatics                  11. Lacrosse
     2. Basketball                  12. Martial Arts
     3. Bicycling                     13. Racquetball
     4. Boxing                        14. Skating (Inline)
     5. Equestrian Events      15. Skateboarding
     6. Extreme Sports           16. Skiing
     7. Field or Ice Hockey     17. Soccer
     8. Football                      18. Squash
     9. Gymnastics                 19. Weight lifting
     10. Handball                    20. Wrestling

These sports have the potential to seriously harm the head, face or mouth as the result of head-to-head contact, falls, and teeth clenching blows to the mouth. A well-made, properly fitted mouth guard can prevent injury or lessen the severity of injuries. Many times injuries will result in damage to the oral structures and require professional attention. If a tooth fractures or breaks, gently biting on a towel will help stabilize the tooth and control the bleeding. If a tooth is knocked out completely, handle it gently. If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse it in water and transport the tooth in milk or saline soaked gauze or place under the person's tongue. Immediately seek care from a dentist.

If you are interested in receiving a mouth guard or have any questions, contact the Offutt Dental Clinic at 402-294-3212. We are located at 2501 Capehart Rd.