Does Your Young Athlete Really Need a Mouthguard?

Sports are a great way to exercise, stay healthy, and learn important life lessons — they’re also potentially dangerous. Sprained ankles, torn ligaments, and other overuse injuries plague competitive teams in every sport. 

Dental injuries don’t get as much attention as other sports injuries, but they should, considering about 15 million Americans crack or break a tooth every year while playing a sport. Mouthguards are a simple way to prevent dental damage, but some sports don’t require them, which is unfortunate given that those who don’t wear one are 60 times more likely to end up with a dental injury. 

At OK Tooth in Midtown Manhattan, New York, our team of dental experts urges all of our patients who participate in athletics to wear a mouthguard. We’ve seen the damage sustained from collisions with other players and blows from flying equipment, and our goal is to help you avoid the need for dental repairs if at all possible. 

Which sports require a mouthguard?

Only a few sports require mouthguards, but in our professional opinion, many more should. Considering the frequency of dental injuries, the potential for body-to-body contact, and the likelihood of a ball or other equipment sailing through the air and into your face, we’ve compiled our own list of sports that should include a mouthguard on their list of standard gear:

Football and hockey (both field and ice) already mandate mouthguards, but the American Dental Association backs us up on this: Put a mouthguard in your kid’s mouth. Even sports you consider low- or no-contact, like baseball, softball, volleyball, and gymnastics can cause dental accidents that a mouthguard could prevent. 

How mouthguards protect teeth

Whenever a body in motion hits the ground, the floor, the wall, or another athlete, unprotected teeth slam into one another with great force. Though teeth are designed to withstand a decent amount of pressure when you tear into a steak or crunch on nuts, sports collisions exceed their resilience, and they may crack, chip, or break.

A mouthguard is a plastic appliance that fits over your teeth and gums and absorbs shock in the event of a collision. In addition to saving your teeth, mouthguards also preserve the delicate soft tissues in your mouth, such as your tongue, gums, and cheeks. If your child wears braces, a mouth guard is essential to protect the brackets and wires and to keep them from gouging into the inner flesh of the mouth.

Although research is still being conducted, some studies show that mouthguards may even lower your child’s risk for concussion by mitigating the force of a blow to the face or jaw.

What to look for in a mouthguard

The best mouthguard is the one your child will wear without complaint, so choose one that fits well. While you can buy a generic mouthguard at any sporting goods store, most aren’t very comfortable. The boil-and-bite type is slightly moldable, so you can get a better fit with this style. 

For serious young athletes, we recommend coming into our office for a custom-made mouthguard. We take a 3D impression of your child’s mouth and send it to a lab where they manufacture a mouthguard that fits your child perfectly.

Whether your child has braces, missing teeth, or crooked teeth, you can rest assured that a custom-designed mouthguard will fit every nook and cranny so they can breathe normally and perform in a game without hindrance — all while protecting their teeth from dental emergencies.

To learn more about mouthguards for young athletes or to order a custom mouthguard for the upcoming season, schedule an appointment online or call us at 212-651-4121 today.

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