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Why you should wear a mouthguard to play sport

While the footy season has just finished (congratulations and well done if your team won a premiership or just had an awesome season) there are still hundreds of thousands of Australians out there playing sport every week.

Basketball, for example, tends to go all year, with a summer season as well as a winter one. There are other team sports like hockey, baseball, volleyball, netball, and soccer, and various others where competitors share the same playing arena.

As long as people are exerting themselves physically, there’s an unfortunate risk of injury – and that includes dental injuries. We’ve seen surfers hit in the face by their own boards, cyclists go over the handlebars face first, squash players whacked by an opponent’s racquet, and even tennis doubles partners run into each other going for the same ball.

And let’s not get started on skateboarders who wear helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads, but don’t think about putting a mouthguard in to protect their teeth!

Teeth can be damaged relatively easily

Teeth are fragile and can be chipped or even knocked out with a single impact. It’s been known to happen with a wine glass over dinner!

Top and bottom teeth often come together with some force during any kind of fall or collision, even when the head isn’t directly impacted. It’s also common for people to bite their lip or cheek while your jawbone also comes under significant pressure in what you might otherwise consider a clumsy accident.

A mouthguard absorbs the force of contact and protects against teeth chipping, breaking, or getting knocked out.

Mouthguards have been proven effective

Sport is meant to be fun, but a chipped or broken tooth or one or more teeth being knocked out is no fun for anyone.

Despite the example set by the majority of professional athletes in high-profile sports, dental associations the world over still feel the need to run campaigns urging parents to make sure their kids wear a properly fitted mouthguard.

One study of American high school athletes found that over 75 per cent of injuries occurred when a mouthguard was not being worn.

Mouthguards can prevent or reduce the severity of injuries other than damage to teeth. There are related lip and cheek injuries due to direct contact with teeth, while the same study found that more than half of concussions were suffered when the athlete wasn’t wearing a mouthguard.

The types of injuries that can occur when a mouthguard isn’t being worn include chipped or broken teeth, fractured crowns or bridgework, lip and cheek injuries, root damage to the teeth, fractured jaws, and concussions.

Mouthguards have also been proven to improve athletic performance. When people work out, they tend to clench their teeth. Those clenching muscles, just like the rest of your muscles, will fatigue and deplete oxygen. Wearing a mouthguard prevents this clenching.

But it’s vital that your mouthguard is properly fitted and made of the right material.

What makes a good mouthguard

You’ll know your mouthguard is fitted properly if it doesn’t move, doesn’t cause any discomfort, doesn’t impact your normal breathing, and allows you to talk easily when it’s in place.

Not only is a poorly fitted mouthguard uncomfortable but it’s also likely to affect speech, breathing and swallowing. An inexpensive mouthguard also provides less-than-adequate protection and could block the airway of an unconscious athlete.

By getting a custom mouthguard made by your dentist, you can not only ensure it’s made of good material and of sufficient thickness, but also that it covers the biting surfaces of the upper teeth and the visible surfaces of the six front upper teeth, as well as the bony gum area finishing close to the junction of the inside of the cheek.

Keep in mind, too, that mouthguards suffer wear and tear, like any piece of equipment, so you need to look after it properly – including washing and storing it – and check it regularly for any damage.

A dental night guard can help protect your teeth, too

For those who suffer from bruxism – nighttime clenching and grinding of the teeth – a night guard can be a real saviour. Clenching and grinding while you sleep not only damage your teeth but can cause headaches and jaw pain.

When we see patients who show signs of teeth grinding or TMJ joint pain, we generally recommend a night guard (also referred to as an occlusal splint).

Middleborough Dental Care now makes night guards using 3D-printed nylon, which can be made thinner than the traditional acrylic, making the splint more comfortable.

Always consult your dentist

Whether it’s getting a mouthguard fitted, when you should wear one, how to look after one, or what to do if you do damage a tooth, always consult your dentist. That’s what we’re here for.

We’d much rather be doing preventative work to ensure your teeth stay healthy and exactly where they should be, than doing repair work following some sort of dental trauma.

We also want you to be physically active, fit, and healthy, so we’ll do whatever we can to encourage you to do more exercise, as well as care for your teeth, gums, tongue, cheeks, lips, and jaw.

At Middleborough Dental Care we can help you out with an excellent mouthguard that will give you the confidence to play sport with your teeth well protected.