Sports build camaraderie. They’re fun, adding some excitement to an otherwise mundane week, and they’re always a great source for exercise. But of course, all good things have to have some kind of drawback, right? If you thought this, you’d be correct. And with sports, you have to balance your fun with the risk of injury—and that includes mouth injuries.
As the NBA Finals start up, you don’t have to think too far back for a dramatic example. During the playoffs, Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was going for the ball when an opposing player hit him in the mouth with his elbow. He was not wearing a mouthguard, so needless to say, Isaiah lost his front tooth and needed hours of oral surgery to repair the damage.
We can’t say for certain what would have happened if Isaiah were wearing a mouthguard, in many cases, basic safety precautions can prevent, or lessen the impact, of incidents like this one. The American Dental Association reports that athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer mouth injury when not wearing a mouthguard. That’s a lot of trips to the dentist saved by wearing a mouthguard!
So if you want to enjoy sports and make sure you don’t end up with a missing or chipped tooth, here’s some advice. If you play in a contact sport, or if there is any chance for a body part or object to hit your mouth, wear a mouthguard.
There are three types of mouthguards: Stock, boil and bite, and custom fitted.
The cheapest of the mouthguards, these offer some protection, but not as much as the others. Since they’re “one size fits all,” these mouthguards can often be uncomfortable.
Boil and Bite Mouthguard
Similar to stock mouthguards, you can buy these at sporting goods stores or places like Walmart. To get a better fit, you boil these mouthguards to soften the plastic. When the temperature of the mouthguard is safe, you place it in your mouth and bite down, allowing the mouthguard to shape to your mouth. A better-formed mouthguard provides more protection and makes for a comfortable fit as well.
Your dentist can create a mold of your teeth to create a mouthguard made specifically for your mouth. These mouthguards provide the best protection, and are the most comfortable; many people will forget they are even wearing them.
The bottom line is this: if you don’t wear your mouthguard, then it’s not protecting your teeth.
There are multiple reasons why people don’t wear their mouthguards. A lot of store-bought mouthguards make it hard to breathe, talk, and drink, or just aren’t comfortable. In many cases, coaches (and parents) don’t enforce the wearing of mouthguards.
If you’re going to play sports, and you want to protect your teeth, you need to wear a mouthguard. While a custom mouthguard may cost more money, their wearability means people are more likely to use them. And compared to the pain, time, and cost of surgery for fixing a mouth injury, even the most expensive custom mouthguard is inexpensive.