Contact sports such as hockey and football are frequently associated with tooth, gum and other dental injuries. Other sports such as basketball and soccer have their fair share of dental trauma, too. Less well known is that proper mouth protection can also significantly reduce the risk of concussion. Blows to the mouth area can result in concussion almost as frequently as blows to the head.
For some time now, dentists have provided some protection by supplying what are known as mouth guards or mouth protectors. The same moldable materials and techniques are used to treat other oral conditions. For example, the typical mouth guard is the same device used to treat adults who grind their teeth or have jaw joint pain. In many cases, the same design is used to stabilize the jaws after surgery or injury.
There are different kinds of mouth guards. Some cover or engage both upper and lower jaws and are used when teeth are forcibly clenched, as in weight lifting. The most common type covers the teeth of the upper jaw only and is the one suited for most contact sports.
To have a custom mouth guard made, an impression is taken of the upper and lower teeth in the dentist’s office. The impression is then ‘poured up’ using a building cement material to make a model of the teeth. The upper model is placed on a press with a sheet of special plastic material placed on top of the model. The press is brought down and, through a dual action of heat and vacuum, the plastic molds to the metal. Excess plastic is trimmed from the model before delivering it to the patient and making minor adjustments for comfort and fit.
The dental profession recommends the custom-made mouth guards described above. Other, pre-made types of guards are available at sports and some drug stores. They use the same basic design but do not fit as well as the custom-made ones. Of course, they are less expensive.
The plastic material used to make mouth guards has recently undergone some artistic changes. Children can now choose the colour of their mouth guard and even have designs added in them such as a flag or team logo. Some children also like to have their name added to the design.
The material mouth guards are made of tends to break down with time. The child is also constantly developing, with new teeth coming in and others being lost. For these reasons, the same guard would not fit well from one season to the next. Have a new guard made.
Finally, a mouth guard should be worn during practice sessions as well as regular team play. In some places in North America, wearing mouth guards is actually a legal requirement. Bring up this issue at meetings with teachers, coaches and school administrators, and in the community.
Help prevent dental injuries to your child. A small investment in an appropriate mouth guard can reap huge dividends.