Experts agree that sports participation has many benefits for children. In addition to the obvious physical benefit of getting exercise, participation in sports teaches children about sportsmanship, working as part of a team, and persevering in the face of adversity. But sports participation can also have some potential dangers if proper precautions aren’t taken. Often, parents consider precautions in the form of protective gear for the body, but many don’t consider how important it is to protect the mouth from trauma. In fact, injuries– and particularly sports-related injuries– are one of the leading causes of tooth loss in children and teenagers. Let’s consider some facts about sports mouthguards below:
Are mouthguards required for all sports?
Parents often wonder whether their children really need a mouthguard for a certain sport. A good rule of thumb is to consider whether collision or contact are likely to occur as part of the sporting activity. For example, it’s not necessary for a child to wear a mouthguard while racing in a swim meet. However, mouthguards are crucial in a sport like football, where both collision and contact occur frequently. The American Dental Association also recommends that athletes wear mouthguards while engaging in several other sports, including:
- Hockey (both ice and roller)
- Field Hockey
What type of mouthguard should my child wear?
The most important thing to consider when selecting a mouthguard for your child is whether or not it’s comfortable. After all, your child is more likely to wear a mouthguard regularly if it fits comfortably. Additionally, your child’s mouthguard shouldn’t interfere with his or her speech or breathing. The types of mouthguards typically available include:
- Custom-made guards. These mouthguards are made especially for your child by a dentist. While they are more costly than store-bought mouthguards, they provide the greatest comfort level, as they are designed to fit your child’s unique mouth shape.
- Ready-made mouthguards. Otherwise known as “stock” guards, ready-made mouthguards are already formed and ready to wear. Because they are pre-formed and not designed specifically for the individual user, they are typically a less comfortable option than custom-made mouthguards.
- Boil and bite guards. Like stock mouthguards, boil and bite guards can also be purchased over the counter at your local drug store. First, the mouthguard is inserted in boiling water to soften it. Then, after cooling off briefly, the guard is placed in the user’s mouth so that it can adapt to his or her mouth shape. Because they’re formed to fit the shape of the individual user’s mouth, boil and bite guards are often a more comfortable option than stock guards.
How do I care for my child’s mouth guard?
Properly caring for a mouthguard is essential to effective protection. Consider the following tips for mouthguard care:
- Rinse the mouthguard before and after use.
- Regularly check the mouthguard for any wear and tear. A damaged mouthguard doesn’t provide the same level of protection as a new mouthguard.
- Keep an eye on fit. Check to make sure your child’s mouthguard still fits securely; as children grow, the size of their mouths change too.
- Keep it clean. In addition to rinsing after use, make sure to wash the mouthguard in soapy water regularly.
- Get it professionally checked out. Consider having your child bring his or her mouthguard along to a dentist appointment so that the dentist can check the size and fit.
Participation in sports has both physical and mental benefits for children. Remember, though, that protecting your child’s mouth from injury is just as important as protecting his or her body. So, when you grab that helmet or those shin guards before the big game, don’t forget to bring along the mouth guard too. If you have further questions, please contact us today.