The new school year is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to start thinking about school sports. While every sport has its own safety requirements, one of the most important precautions any athletes – young or old – should take is protecting their mouth. But for those working on getting a new smile through orthodontic treatment, what types of mouth guards for braces are available? Learn the facts as we discuss the importance of mouth guards for athletes, and what options you have to protect your mouth while wearing braces.
Why You Need a Mouth Guard
According to the ADA, athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer dental trauma when not wearing a mouth guard. While in some cases these are minor injuries that will heal on their own, there’s a high risk of greater damage. Cracked teeth, lost teeth, or damaged roots are all common injuries that happen in sports. If you’re currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, the last thing you want to do is lose a tooth!
Mouth guards do even more than that, though. Properly fitted mouth guards help you avoid cuts to your lip, tongue, gums and they even protect you against jaw injuries! And while you may think that these benefits only come when playing contact sports, think again. Non-contact sports like basketball can have a higher rate of dental injuries – specifically because mouth guards are not mandatory. Accidental contact or simply tripping and falling are real risks during any sport, and they all could lead to a serious dental emergency.
Unlike scraped knees or bruised arms, a dental injury can have long-lasting impact on your dental health and be more difficult and expensive to correct. Particularly for those already working to improve their smile through orthodontic treatment, a mouth guard is a must to help keep you on the path to improving your pearly whites!
Can I Use a Regular Mouth Guard with Braces?
Due to the availability of store-bought mouth guards, many of our patients ask about using stock or “mouth-formed” mouth guards with their braces. We don’t recommend them, and there are a few reasons why:
#1. Stock mouth guards offer little protection
Store-bought stock mouth guards don’t conform to the shape of your teeth. They’re readily available at any sporting-goods store, and very inexpensive. However, their bulk and stock shape make them very uncomfortable to wear. Many athletes have trouble breathing and speaking when wearing them, as you need to bite them to hold them in place. On top of that, since they’re able to shift in the mouth, they end up offering very little protection. Are they better than nothing? Of course! But not by much.
#2. Boil-and-bite mouth guards aren’t made for braces
The other, more popular type of store-bought mouth guard is the boil-and-bite category. Their special thermoplastic design allows them to take the shape of your mouth when you heat them in water and bite into them. Despite offering better comfort and protection, they’re not well-designed for those wearing traditional metal braces.
For starters, by design, they try to keep everything in place. This directly opposes the purpose of wearing braces, and with frequent use, can impact your overall treatment. Secondly, if you suffer an impact during your activity, they will very likely push against your braces. The results tend to be the plastic getting “stuck” to the brackets, or even knocking the wires or brackets loose. In either case, you’ll need to take a quick visit to your orthodontist to correct them. And while we always love seeing our patients – we don’t want anything to happen that might negatively affect your treatment.
So, Are There Mouth Guards for Braces?
Absolutely! Mouth guards for braces, also known as orthodontic mouth guards, are specially designed for athletes undergoing orthodontic treatment. They work with any type of braces. Their unique design protects your mouth without the risks brought on by wearing regular, store-bought mouth guards.
The most significant difference is how they’re held in place. With regular mouth guards, they protect your mouth by being held in place by your bite or by being formed to your teeth. Mouth guards for braces, however, have special flanges that go under your lips. This gives them a safer space to be held in place that won’t apply as much pressure to your brackets.
Braces designed for mouth guards are also larger than typical models. This lets them offer full protection for your teeth and gums, which is important to prevent your brackets from being pushed into your lips if you’re hit during a game.
Despite their size, they should still fit more comfortably than regular stock sports guards, especially when custom-made for your mouth. Any dentist or orthodontist will always recommend using a custom-made mouth guard over a store-bought one. Because custom-designed mouth guards are created with your mouth in mind, they can be made to fit perfectly – giving you better protection and far better comfort.
Keep in mind, these are different than the mouth guards you have if you were experiencing teeth grinding issues. If you’re planning to join a sports team for the upcoming season, contact Dr. Andy today to find out about getting a custom mouth guard that can protect your mouth and braces!
Don’t Forget to Keep Your Mouth Guard Clean!
When you wear your mouth guard, you introduce the same bacteria in your mouth to its surfaces. That means every time you take it out, you need to give a quick clean. Just like maintaining your retainer, it doesn’t take much effort. Give it a rinse in water, scrub it thoroughly, rinse it again, and then let it dry. It’s important not to let your mouth guard sit in an air tight case where it can’t dry out – moist mouth guards let bacteria thrive!
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