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NEWS | June 11, 2018

Mouth guards: Better to be safe than sorry

By Patrick Miller, R.D.H., Chief of Preventative Dentistry 628th Aerospace Medical Squadron

As the weather warms during the summer months, many of us are increasing our outdoor sporting activities. But it’s easy to take things for granted until they are suddenly gone. So imagine what it would be like if you lost one or two of your front teeth while participating in your favorite sport. The right equipment, such as a properly fitted mouth guard, is important to protect you, your teeth and your smile.

A mouth guard is a resilient plastic appliance that has been designed to cover and protect an athlete's teeth, gums and the bone that support them. There are several types of mouth guards. One type is a “boil and bite” athletic mouth guard, which can be obtained at the 628 Medical Group Deily Dental Clinic. Another type is a custom-fitted athletic mouth guard that can be fabricated by a dental professional.

The idea is that when a guard is worn, it helps to provide protection for the hard teeth and jaw-bone, as well as the soft lips, cheeks and gum tissues of the mouth. It does so by absorbing and redistributing the forces generated by traumatic blows. The spongy resiliency of a mouth guard helps to absorb some of the energy of an impact. The stiffness of the mouth guard can help to distribute the energy of a traumatic force over a greater surface area. Both of these effects will lessen the total force load any one tooth is subjected to and therefore lessen the likelihood that chipping, breaking, or even tooth dislodgement will occur.

Along these same lines, to some degree, a mouth protector can help to prevent jaw bone fracture.  A mouth guard’s resiliency and stiffness once again both come into play and can help to minimize the total amount of force that any one portion of the jaw is subjected to. The violent jaw movements created by a blow or collision can result in a biting laceration of the lips, cheeks, or tongue. Sports guards can provide protection from bruising and laceration of the soft tissues of the mouth caused by a traumatic event. When a blow is delivered to the mouth, the forces of the impact are absorbed by the structures the blow lands upon. In the case of hard oral tissues such as teeth, a forceful impact can easily cause a tooth to fracture, result in tooth dislodgement, or damage existing dental work such as dental crowns, bridges, porcelain veneers and dental implants. The most significant benefits that a mouth guard can provide are protection against damage to teeth and dental work.

All athletes participating in any contact sport should wear a mouth guard. A list of contact sports would, at minimum, include the following: football, boxing, ice hockey, roller hockey, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, soccer, basketball, water polo, martial arts, and wrestling. Other sports, while typically not considered true contact sports, can still place the athlete at risk and therefore should necessitate the use of a mouth protector. Anyone participating in baseball, racquetball, squash, handball, skiing, skateboarding, rollerblading, skydiving, volleyball, surfing, acrobatics, gymnastics, tennis, and bicycling should protect their mouth with a guard. Mouth guards should be worn at all when the sport is being played, in both formal competition and in practice.

According to the Center for Disease Control, sports-related dental injuries account for more than 600,000 thousand emergency room visits each year. Don’t let your next trip to the dentist be an emergency visit. Please stop by the Deily Dental Clinic to pick up a boil and bite mouth guard or call 843-963-6675 to set up an appointment to have a custom-fitted athletic mouth guard made.