What is a Mouth Guard?
A mouth guard is a soft plastic device worn during sporting activities to protect your teeth and gums from injury.
Mouth guards are also called ‘gum shields’, ‘mouth protectors’ and ‘teeth guards’ depending which country you live in.
They are not to be confused with ‘night guards’, which are made of a different material and used to treat grinding (bruxism) or TMJD.
Why Wear a Mouth Guard?
Every year, thousands of children and adults all around the country are treated for dental injuries that could have been prevented or at the very least minimised, by wearing a mouth guard.
Generally the treatment needed if you get a sporting injury in the mouth is long, complex and expensive. It may involve numerous appointments and often root canal treatment will be needed, presuming it is even possible to save the tooth.
The old saying ‘it is better to be safe than sorry’, is certainly true when it comes to getting a mouth guard to protect your teeth.
Mouth guards protect you in the following ways:
- They protect your teeth from direct impact from heads, elbows, knees, fists and a range of sporting equipment.
- They stop your teeth from smashing into each other and causing further damage.
- They help to protect your lips by shielding them from your teeth and preventing them from being severely bitten and damaged.
- They can buffer a blow to the chin, so helping stop concussion and reducing the chance your jaw fracturing.
I treat a few children every year, who have had their front teeth literally smashed from an elbow or a hockey stick. In some circumstances they had had mouth guards, but sadly they had chosen to tuck them in their socks instead of wear them!
If the impact fractures the root of the tooth, it may not be possible to save the tooth- in this case, you may have to have the tooth extracted
Remember, you only get one set of adult teeth so you may have to wear a denture to replace your missing teeth until you have stopped growing, or until you are able to consider an implant or a dental bridge.
If the tooth is pushed into your gum, it may need orthodontic treatment to pull it out and back into line. This can be expensive and take 1-2 years.
This may all sound a little dramatic, and I guess it is, until the reality hits home in that split second when you get that bash or knock to your mouth and hear a crack and then it’s all too late. I am simply highlighting the fact that such a relatively small investment can protect such an important thing- your smile. Ask yourself… Is it worth the risk?
If your front teeth get damaged it is a long, expensive and uncomfortable road and things will NEVER be the same!
If an accident happened to my child’s mouth, I would be so upset because I know the recovery journey they would have to take and how simply it could have been avoided.
If you’re an adult the situation is not that much better. It is not advisable to consider implants or a bridge until you have stopped playing the particular sport that caused your problem in the first place.
If you were to get a second blow to the mouth, it may damage the teeth supporting the bridge or bone around the implant, meaning more teeth are lost and reducing the number of treatment options that would then be available to you.
When Should you Wear a Mouth Guard?
Mouth guards are needed in any sport where you might get a deliberate or accidental injury to your face, teeth and jaws. Obviously this is more likely in certain sports than others. They need to be worn not just during games but also during training whenever there is a chance of getting a bang to the face.
The type of sport you play (and the potential force of the impact) will determine the thickness of the mouth guard you might need. The thickness will determine the level of protection offered. Sports such as boxing or MMA will require a greater thickness of material to protect the teeth and jaws than for example, netball.
There are some sports in which the rules make it compulsory to wear a mouth guard, for others it’s optional. It’s not worth taking the risk.
As a general guide, a mouth guard should be worn for the following:
Any type of martial art (thick)
Australian rules football (thick)
Water polo (thick)
American football (thick)
Skating and Skateboarding (standard)
Snowboarding and skiing (standard)