by Dr Clara Gibson
Team sports are a great opportunity to make friends, stay healthy and learn how to think quickly as part of a team. The benefits greatly outweigh any disadvantages, especially in Singapore when the sunny weather beckons for us all to be outside. Injuries can and do happen and your teeth are also at risk of injury. Unfortunately, teeth don’t heal very well on their own and often a visit to the dentist is required. Preventing these injuries is the best way to avoid having to take time off the pitch. This is where mouthguards can help.
Which sports require mouthguards?
In summary – any activity where there is a risk to the teeth and mouth area, from contact with a ball, or an opponent’s elbow or sporting equipment. Mouthguards are essential or very highly recommended for sports such as football, rugby, boxing, martial arts, hockey, ice hockey, basketball, lacrosse, equestrian polo. But in our dental clinic, we see lots of dental trauma and mouth injuries from other activities such as scooters, skate-boarding, mountain biking etc where mouthguards are not compulsory or considered but would have been invaluable. We recommend that any activity that could put teeth at risk is an opportunity to wear a mouthguard.
What’s the risk?
The key question which parents often ask us then is ”how do I know if my child will be at risk of dental injury”? The risk of dental trauma is directly related to the child’s overjet – this is how far in front the top teeth protrude, relative to the lower teeth. As the overjet increases, the risk of dental injury from trauma directly increases. At an orthodontic consultation, this is one of the measurements which your orthodontist will record and they will let you know if it is above the ideal. In some instances, your orthodontist may recommend starting treatment earlier than usual, on account of a high trauma risk. Children whose lips do not meet together at rest are also more likely to have dental injury from trauma. Ideally, the lower lip should rest just in front of the upper front teeth, and this protects the teeth. If children cannot achieve a lip-seal when their mouth is at rest, then the upper front teeth could be left exposed and at risk of damage on impact.
The main issue with mouthguards has been that they are bulky, uncomfortable and it is hard to speak and breathe. Fortunately, the science behind mouthguards has improved and many of these issues have been addressed.
The 3 main types are:
1. Ready to wear
2. Boil and bite
3. Custom-made by dentist
Ready to wear are bought directly from a sport shop, not moulded and fit loosely. We generally do not recommend them. The wearer has to bite continually to keep them in place and this can limit speaking and effective breathing during strenuous activity.
Boil and bite are similar, except the wearer can heat the mouthguard up at home to adapt it better to the teeth. They will fit better than ready-to-wear but also generally require some biting to hold them in place.
Custom-made guards are made by your dentist and adapts specially to the wearers teeth. They will stay in place even when the mouth is wide open, making breathing and speaking easier. They are neater, thinner and fit snugly against the teeth, thereby reducing the force dissipating to the teeth on impact. We love the custom-made Fortress mouthguards, they have multiple layers for superior teeth protection, they fit perfectly into the bite so that the teeth are locked in securely, for maximum stability of teeth and jaw bones. And the huge colour variety means that you are sure to find your team’s colours.
What about braces?
Wearing fixed braces used to mean that sports mouthguards would not comfortably fit, but not anymore! There has been huge improvements in the market regarding mouthguards that fit over braces. Many of these can be remoulded at home, to accommodate the teeth as they straighten throughout treatment. Some brands that we recommend are Opro (choose the ‘gold’ level for brace wearers), Shock Doctor and SISU.
However, the most perfect fit of mouthguard with braces is the custom-made option, where your orthodontist takes a mould or scan of your teeth and braces and a special custom made mouthguard is designed to fit.
Expat Dental offers a range of mouthguards for children and adults and for those with braces fitted. Ask about our offers for teams. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org