It’s common to think of a helmet or shin guards when keeping your body safe during sports. A mouthguard, though, is an equally important piece of protective gear. Whether you’re playing football, basketball, hockey, or another high-impact sport, it’s important to protect your smile with this simple device.
First, here are three reasons why you should wear a mouthguard.
1. It helps prevent serious dental injuries.
A mouthguard will protect your teeth from being cracked, chipped, or even knocked out. Better yet, it may lower your risk of concussions and facial injuries. It also shields your jaw from injury: By absorbing the shock of impact, it spreads the force of contact throughout the entire surface of your mouth. This protection reduces the risk of fractures and/or dislocations in your jaw joint, which are both common sports-related injuries.
2. It protects your mouth from lacerations.
When participating in contact sports, there’s a risk of your teeth scraping the inside of your lip or cheek and leaving behind an uncomfortable sore. A mouthguard provides an extra layer between your lips and gums to serve as protection.
3. It can even improve your performance!
Did you know a mouthguard allows you to breathe better? It reduces the air resistance caused by having an open mouth when running or jumping. In turn, it helps to increase oxygen flow, which may improve your endurance during long practices or games. Increased oxygen flow also helps you stay more focused and alert.
Next, let’s look at three different types of mouthguard.
1. Stock mouthguards
A stock mouthguard is the most widely available and affordable type. You can find them at most drug stores or sporting goods stores. They typically come in three sizes (small, medium, and large) and only fit over your top teeth. Because of the limited size options, they may be uncomfortable and make it challenging to talk. Plus, they often provide limited protection because they don’t offer a tight fit.
2. Boil-and-bite mouthguards
Also sold in most stores and relatively inexpensive, a boil-and-bite mouthguard comes in one size that you then customize to fit your teeth. Prior to use, you boil the mouthguard until it becomes soft and then place it over your front teeth before biting down.
3. Custom mouthguards
Lastly, your dentist can provide you with a custom mouthguard, molded to the specific structure of your teeth and mouth. It’s no surprise that this option provides a much better fit than either stock or boil-and-bite mouthguards. They’re typically more comfortable too. Although they’re more expensive, your dental insurance may cover some or all of the cost.
Lastly, here are some tips for caring for your mouthguard.
Try to brush and floss your teeth before putting it in your mouth (we understand it’s not always possible!). Additionally, rinse your mouthguard with cool water or mouthwash before and after wearing it. Clean it with a toothbrush and toothpaste after each use. To ensure a proper fit, bring it along to your dentist appointments. For storage, use a hard container with ventilation to protect it and also allow it to dry out between uses. And finally, be sure to check for signs of damage, including holes, so you know when to replace it.
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