Sports are a passion for many Australians, be it soccer, footy, cycling, surfing, hockey, cricket, skateboarding or pretty much anything any of the other hundreds of sports out there. While all this sport is great for our daily exercise requirements, sporting injuries are unfortunately very common, with thousands of dental injuries every year. To look at it another way, be it a tackle on the field, a spill of a board or simply a mechanical failure in the equipment used, one of the most common causes of dental injuries is through sport, leisure and recreation activities. This is where a professional dental fitted mouthguard can really make a difference, helping protect your teeth from potentially very painful injuries.

What type of injuries can occur playing sport?

Sporting dental injuries range from mild cuts to very significant and complex to treat injuries. Unfortunately, unless you were 'lucky' and have a more minor injury, the damage done is usually fairly extensive, requiring multiple treatments over time. These injuries tend to be painful and unfortunately some can cause disfigurement and a lifetime of expense and treatment on the more severe end.

The more common injuries that occur from sporting or leisure activities are:

  • Cut lips, gums or cheeks.
  • Cuts to the tongue or face.
  • Chipped teeth.
  • Broken teeth.
  • Knocked out teeth.
  • Broken jaw.

If you are thinking that these injuries are exclusive to contact sports like rugby, AFL, hockey, boxing and alike, you are unfortunately mistaken. Dental injuries can occur in non-contact sports as well, for example, soccer and cricket injuries from a ball to the face, basketball from a stumble and bad landing, road cycling from hitting a pothole when swerving and skateboarding, or even surfing from a board to the teeth. Believe us when we tell you that just because you don't engage in a traditional contact sport, does not mean you teeth are 'safe'.

How does a mouth guard help?

Short of wrapping yourself in bubble wrap and staying inside a padded room, a custom fitted mouthguard is one of your best forms of protection when out playing sports or undertaking some other leisure activities. A mouthguard is generally a slightly spongy or flexible, yet still fairly thick, protective cover over your teeth.

This slightly spongy property that all good quality mouthguards have, helps absorb any impact received. Without this protection, a direct impact to the lower part of the face can result in the bottom and upper rows of teeth smashing together. The force would not stop there, continuing to travel further through the jaw and even into the upper part of your skull increasing the risk of concussions, let alone dental injuries. With a properly fitted mouthguard this force is dampened, significantly lessening the force that is transferred through.

What type of mouthguards can I get?

There are two main types of mouthguards that you can purchase to help protect yourself from dental injuries. These are 'professional dental custom fitted mouthguards', such as the ones we make here, or 'boil and bite' mouthguards.

Custom fitted mouthguards, as the name implies, are professionally made mouthguards tailored to your teeth. The process involves first taking an impression or mould of your teeth before making the mouthguard from this. This process ensures the closest or tightest fit possible. This snug fit will not only increase protection, however, it makes the mouthguard sit properly to be able to still talk with the mouthguard in, as well as breathe and swallow normally. Custom fit mouthguards will also be thick, at least 4mm, to properly provide protection from any impact received. Finally, if you are concerned about performance you need not worry, as custom made mouthguards have been found by researchers to have almost no negative impact on strength or performance.

The alternative to custom fitted mouthguards are the over the counter style 'boil and bite'. These are placed into hot water to make them soft and then put in the mouth as they cool to take the shape of the teeth and mouth. This process will not be anywhere near as comfortable to wear as it will not conform to the structure of the teeth as closely. Talking and drinking water with the mouthguard in may also be inhibited and you may also have more difficulty breathing, which may inhibit your performance. In more serious impacts, given the loose fit, they may come off and wedge in your throat and become a life threatening issue. Generally speaking, the only time we recommend this type of mouthguard is over no mouthguard at all.

How do I look after my mouthguard?

If you get a custom made mouthguard with us, we recommend you rinse off your mouthguard after each use before storing, using warm water and some soap. Make sure you allow it to air dry completely before packing it away to prevent bacteria growing in the moist conditions. It may also be a good idea to occasionally rinse the mouthguard with a mouthwash to disinfect it.

When storing the mouthguard, ensure it is in a cool spot in a plastic container that has vents. This will allow air to circulate, preventing heat build-up and possibly unhygienic conditions. Do not store the mouthguard in the car or anywhere hot. The heat can destroy the shape of the mouthguard which may render it useless, or at the very least, place it in the category of a 'bite and boil' mouthguard with respect to protection and performance.

Finally, before using the mouthguard again, make sure it is in good condition and has not been damaged. If you look after your mouthguard it can last several years, with the exception of children's mouthguards. Children's mouthguards will need to be replaced every 12 to 18 months depending on the growth of the dental structure of the individual. If the mouthguard does not fit as well as it used to, that is a sign it will need replacing.

Feel free to bring your mouthguard in when you come in for your routine dental examinations and we can help assess the condition of your current mouthguard and if it needs to be replaced.

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