When Should Young Athletes Wear Mouth Guards?

As of 2018, statistics show nearly 30 million youths in the United States participate in competitive sports. Interest and involvement in youth sports, in schools, community rec programs, and regional athletic associations has skyrocketed over the last few decades.

With springtime ushering in warmer weather along with a new season in sports, there is one vital item you should consider: a mouth guard. A mouth guard protects your child’s teeth, as well as the jaw and gums.

In a recent study by the American Dental Association (ADA), it was determined that a mouth guard is one of the more necessary pieces of safety equipment for kids in athletics. The ADA study showed the mouth guard was instrumental in the prevention of more than 100,000 sports injuries, annually.

Dr. Kavitha Gowda of Perfect Smiles Dentistry in Everett, Washington, understands your concern for your child’s safety. Preventing injury to your child’s teeth, gums, and jaw at this stage in his or her life is essential to their future health and wellness.

What is a mouth guard?

A mouth guard is a piece of pliable polymer material designed to absorb the shock of blows to the mouth. Synonymous with a mouth protector, mouth guards are fairly easy to insert. Ideally, they fit over the upper teeth and snap into place, providing protection from any sort of sports-related impact.

Besides providing essential protection to your teeth, jaw, and gums, a mouth guard will prevent injury to the insides of your lips, tongue, and cheeks. Contrary to a common assumption, it’s not necessary to cover your lower teeth with a mouth guard, since they’re not as exposed as your upper teeth.

Nonetheless, if you wear braces, Dr. Kavitha Gowda recommends getting a mouth guard to keep your lower teeth in check.

When a mouth guard is necessary

If your child plays contact sports, there should be no debate about your family athlete wearing a mouth guard for protection. Sports like lacrosse, hockey (ice and field), football, rugby, and basketball can become highly charged, with participants playing a little rough.

Even if your young athlete pursues sports like rock climbing, biking, skating, or skateboarding, it’s wise to protect the teeth by using a mouth guard. At Perfect Smiles, we have several mouth guards to choose from, based on your lifestyle.

The types of mouth guards

Regardless of the type of mouth guard you choose, you need to ensure durability and comfort. If the mouth guard is uncomfortable or difficult to wear, there’s a chance your child won’t wear it. The guard should fit like a glove with little to no restrictions when you talk or breathe.

Mouth guards fall into three categories:

  1.    Stock – These are pre-formed, cost-effective, and conveniently available at most sports retail outlets in the US. You can’t adjust how they fit, they’re considerably bulky, and make both speech and breathing difficult. They offer minimal protection, so Dr. Gowda advises against using them.
  2.    Boil and bite – Like the stock mouth guards, you’ll find these in a multitude of sports retail stores. The difference is that the boil and bite mouth guards are immersed in boiling hot water. You then firmly insert them in your mouth to take the shape of your teeth with the assistance of your tongue and fingers.
  3.    Customized – At Perfect Smiles Dentistry, we custom design mouth guards to fit your mouth. A custom-made guard offers the best fit, and the most effective protection.

Dr. Gowda begins by making an impression of your teeth, from which she creates a mold using special material. Since the molding procedure takes notable time and effort, this type of mouth guard is a bit more costly. However, we highly recommend it for its unmatched level of protection, durability, and comfort.

How long do mouth guards last?

Ideally, you should replace your mouth guard at the end of each sports season, if you notice significant wear and tear, or if your child appears to have outgrown the guard. We provide all of our young athlete patients new mouth guards when they come in for their six-month checkup with Dr. Gowda.

Nothing but the best

At Perfect Smiles, Dr. Gowda is dedicated to providing families in and around the Everett area with detailed and customized dental care, which leaves you quite literally grinning from ear-to-ear. Her expertise in general, cosmetic, and preventive dentistry, means you and your family will be delighted with your care.

You’ll feel right at home with Dr. Gowda and her caring support staff, and the warm, friendly ambiance of her office. For more information on mouth guards, the dental treatments you’d like to try, and much more, contact our office today!

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