Ask the Expert

Why are mouthguards important for my child to wear when participating in sports?

By Dr. Aimee Cassinelli from Peak Pediatric Dentistry September 14, 2017

Q: Why are mouthguards important for my child to wear when participating in sports?

We see professional athletes wearing mouthguard during their sporting events. Your children should start wearing mouthguard with athletics at an early age to protect their teeth.

Mouthguards, also called mouth protectors, help cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw. They typically cover the upper teeth and are a great way to protect the soft tissues of your tongue, lips and cheek lining. Mouthguards play several important roles for athletes, especially in aggressive contact sports. The most obvious benefit is protecting your teeth and preventing serious mouth injuries. They can also reduce the risk of jaw injuries. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that mouthguard can also reduce the risk of brain injuries for athletes, especially if they are wearing a custom-made mouthguard. The study found that high school football players wearing store-bought mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries than those wearing properly fitted, custom mouthguards.
When Should You Wear a Mouthguard?
When it comes to protecting your mouth, a mouthguard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be part of your standard equipment from an early age. Dental trauma can lead to a lifetime of dental work. It is much easier to prevent dental trauma with a mouthguard than to treat dental trauma in the office!

While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, are higher-risk sports for the mouth, any athlete may experience a dental injury in non-contact activities too, such as gymnastics and skating.

Types of Mouthguards
The best mouthguard is one that has been custom made for your mouth by your dentist. However, a stock mouthguard or a boil-and-bite mouthguard from the drugstore is great for children who are in transition-loosing teeth and getting new ones (usually between the ages of 6-12). These mouthguard are in expensive and can be 'remolded' each time your child looses a tooth and gets a new one. Learn more about each option:
Custom-made: These are made by your dentist for you personally. They are more expensive than the other versions because they are individually created for fit and comfort.
Boil and bite: These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods stores and drugstores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in water (boiled), then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. Always follow the manufacturers' instructions. CustMbite MVP and CustMbite Pro are a boil and bite mouthguards that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Stock: These are inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don’t fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.

How Long Should Mouth Guards Last?
Mouth guards should ideally be replaced after each season because they can wear down over time, making them less effective. Replacement is especially important for adolescents because their mouths continue to grow and teeth continue to develop into adulthood. Many athletes who play several sports have new mouth guards made when they go for their six-month dental checkup.

Can wearing a custom mouth guard help reduce the risk of sports related concussions?

More peer- reviewed research is needed regarding this question, as some research has shown evidence that it does help, while other research is inconclusive. They certainly do not increase the risk, and if one is being worn to protect teeth, a side benefit may be reduced concussion risk. I will be watching for new, more conclusive research!

Thank you, Peak Pediatric Dentistry for answering this dental question. Dr. Aimee Cassinelli can be reached at (770) 274-4428. Peak Pediatric Dentistry is on Facebook and Instagram. The office is located at 6095 Barfield Rd Ste 150 in Atlanta, GA 30328.

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The advice that you are being given is meant to assist with a problem, but since all information about the individual, is not known, it should not be taken as a definitive response. You should consult your personal provider, with specific problems.

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