The importance of a mouthguard when playing sport
Undergoing orthodontic treatment and getting braces can be a big transition in the life of a tween or teenager. Becoming accustomed to having foreign objects on your teeth, the added cleaning and care requirements, and the occasional discomfort of adjustments can all take some getting used to.
If you are active in sports, your life should not change if you need to have braces. The rule of thumb is you should use a mouthguard when in braces for any activity that you would normally need to wear a mouthguard for. Make sure you speak to your orthodontist about an orthodontic mouthguard to ensure your smile is protected.
Why are mouthguards important when wearing braces?
Injuries to the teeth, mouth and jaws are some of the most common injuries that occur on the sporting field. Ironically, the presence of braces may prevent the displacement or loss of teeth should a significant facial/mouth injury occur. However, for more ‘common’ sporting injuries, the use of a mouthguard when having braces can protect your teeth from the impact of the injury itself and will protect your lips, cheeks and tongue from mouth lacerations, if you are hit by a ball, bat or another player.
The use of a mouthguard can also prevent damage to the brackets from a blow to the face as it provides a barrier between the braces and cheek or lips.
Mouthguards are particularly important when playing contact sports such as football, wrestling,martial arts, volleyball, soccer, basketball and hockey. The use of a mouthguard is also recommended if you are engaging in non-contact or recreational activities such as skateboarding, mountain biking, rollerblading, trampolining and horse riding.
Only a third of children aged 5-17 years wear a mouthguard while playing organised sports, even though other protective materials such as helmets are common. Mouthguards are one of the most important pieces of protective equipment as not only do they save teeth, they also protect jaws.
What is a mouth guard?
A mouthguard is a cushioning appliance made of flexible material that fits snugly over the teeth to help prevent injuries to the teeth and mouth. An effective mouthguard is like a ‘crash helmet’ for teeth and jaws. It also prevents the jaws coming together fully, thereby reducing the risk of jaw joint injuries and concussion.
An orthodontic mouthguard needs to fit well and be reformable, so it can be re-shaped to fit your teeth as the braces guide them into a new position. Mouthguards made with gel fillings are not suitable for use when undergoing orthodontic work.
What are the advantages of using a mouthguard?
A mouthguard can help cushion a strong blow to the face that otherwise might result in a severe injury to the mouth and joints. It acts as a shock absorber protecting the teeth and lower jaw from potentially breaking and prevents you from accidentally biting your lips, tongue or cheeks. A misdirected elbow in a one-on-one basketball game or a fall off a skateboard can leave you with chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss.
Orthodontic treatment options
The type of orthodontic treatment your child is undergoing will also play a part in helping your orthodontist to fit an appropriate sports mouthguard. While traditional braces tend to be the most popular and effective method of straightening teeth, there are other options that may be more suitable for your child, such as removable plates or clear aligners.
If your child has a removable retainer or other removable appliance, they should not wear it during any contact sports, but must still wear an appropriate kids mouthguard to protect their smile.
While your orthodontist may be able to assist in providing a customized mouthguard to suit the needs of your teeth during your orthodontic treatment, this will not be included in the cost of your braces. If deemed suitable, a generic remouldable off-the-shelf braces mouthguard may need to be purchased from an external retailer following the advice of your orthodontist.
Talk to your orthodontist about selecting a mouthguard that is best for you.
For more information about looking after your braces, take a look at our Kids and Orthodontics eBook.