Many athletes of varying age and ability have been told they should, or have to, wear a mouthguard when involved in sports. The usual sports for which a mouthguard are recommended are hockey, football, boxing, wrestling, and mixed martial arts. Basically…any sport where forceful contact between players is a usual part of the game. Mouthguards are usually made of some sort of plastic material, and are mostly worn covering the top teeth during play. They come in all varieties and price points, from less than $20 for a typical “boil-and-bite” guard purchased at the pharmacy or sporting goods store, to $75-150 for one made by your dentist from impressions of your teeth. There are also claims that a mouthguard made by some dental offices can improve your flexibility and endurance, and these come at a much higher price range, upward of $500. You may be wondering what the benefits are of each of these types of mouthguards, and which one would be right for you.
Let’s start with why a mouthguard for sports is just plain smart.
You probably already know that a mouthguard is made to protect your teeth from fracture after a blow to the face with a hockey puck, elbow or knee, or a fall. This is true, but you may not know that wearing a mouthguard can reduce your risk of breaking your mandible (lower jaw) with certain types of impact, or even a concussion! During certain types of blows to the face or falls, your top and bottom teeth can bang together with such great force that the top of your lower jaw, which gets very narrow as it extends up towards your ear, can fracture, requiring surgery. Also, some of these hits you take in your sport have been known to cause a concussion; wearing a mouthguard lessens the impact from the injury in these two areas, significantly reducing the chances of these serious outcomes.
So how much do I have to spend to protect myself, or my child?
I am not an athlete in a contact sport, and I never have been. I can only share with you what friends and patients have told me about mouthguards. Go cheap…and you are certain to have a mouthguard that fits poorly, is bulky, and is therefore not worn consistently (think of all the pro athletes you see on TV with the mouthguard hanging out of their mouths, or chewing on them). If the guard doesn’t fit well, and is not worn…it’s a waste of your money!
OK…so the obvious disclaimer is that I am a dentist. And it would make sense that I would recommend a dentist make a mouthguard…let me tell you, if you or your child has ever worn a $20 guard from the pharmacy, JUST ONCE try a custom-made mouthguard from your dentist. The fit should be dramatically better, which then can lead to actually wearing the mouthguard…which then allows it to do its job protecting your teeth. As I said previously, most dental offices will charge between $75-$150, which may depend on whether your dental office makes the mouthguards in the office, or if they send your impressions out to a lab to have it made, which can incur a higher cost.
You mentioned something about “improving performance.” What’s that all about?
Serious athletes are always looking for ways to improve overall performance. This is becoming more and more evident with all of the illegal ways some pro athletes are trying, and eventually failing, to be at the top of their game. However, there may be a legal way to get that competitive edge using a mouthguard. Really. Scientific studies have been completed which review the effects of a sports mouthguard when that appliance is made in a way that optimizes the way the top and bottom teeth meet while wearing it. Confused? If there is muscle imbalance when your teeth bite together, your overall flexibility, balance, and stamina can also be affected. We can now offer patients a mouthguard which improves the balance of your muscles when your teeth are biting together; your head is the “top block” of your whole body, so balancing your bite improves the position of your spine as well as all of the muscles of your body! These mouthguards are also offered at different price points with a more “entry level” appliance, and another for the most serious athletes. They can also be worn for virtually any sport, from the typical contact sports like hockey, football and mixed martial arts…to more-balance-oriented sports like golf, gymnastics, and cycling!
If you would like to find out more about the variety of mouthguards available now, please feel free to contact our office for an evaluation!
Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!