Mouthguards: Do they help or not?
All sports activites do have a certain risk of orofacial injuries. This can be from falling over, to collision with a hard ball or surface. So there is a very strong argument for wearing a mouthguard to help distrubute forces and protect the teeth and jaws. Mouthguards are made from a type of plastic which allows them to be fairly elastic and this will in turn distribute the forces throughout the mouth.
How does a mouthguard work?
The plastic helps to distribute the impact energy, how this is done will depend on the direction of the impact. If the impact is on the base of the lower jaw, called the mandible, the forces are going upwards through the jaw then the mouthguard will help by acting as a cushion and stop the upper and lower teeth from hitting each other and thus preventing crown and root fractures.
If the injury is from the front, the material will help to distribute forces but this may still not be enough to prevent the teeth from fracturing but will certainly help the situation.
Types of mouthguards
There are three types of mouthguards available to children and adults.
1. Stock ones made in three sizes. The advantage is that it is low in cost, but rarely worn due to poor fit!
2. Mouth formed one, which are made of hard plastic on the outside and soft on the inside. The material is placed in hot water and then when slightly cooler this is placed in the patients mouth and moulded to their mouth. This is better at protecting the patient but not with high impact sports and the fit can also be a problem. The advantage would be low cost.
3. Custom made mouthguards are the most effective in protecting with all contact injuries and the fit will be very good. These mouthguards can be made when a patient is wearing orthodontic braces and will be made to fit over the brackets. There are lots of different colours and designs, which is fun for the children to choose. They are straightforward to make, which involves taking impressions of the teeth and sending this to the appropriate lab.
From my experience I would advice mouthguards from an age when contact sports are being played. They should be custom made to fit to the patients mouth with comfort and this will provide maximum protection to the patient.
I made this mouthguard for my nurse's son.
Please contact me if you would like anymore information on this or would like one made.
On a separate note, we have exciting news for the practice! We have just been nominated for practice of the year and our hygienist has been nominated for staff of the year too.