Imagine what it would be like if you suddenly lost one or two of your front teeth. Smiling, talking, eating—everything would suddenly be affected. Knowing how to prevent injuries to your mouth and face is especially important if you participate in organized sports or other recreational activities. Studies show that up to 39% of dental injuries result from playing sports. Of those injuries, 80% affect front teeth.
When it comes to protecting teeth, sports mouthguards are an essential piece of athletic gear for all sports. Mouthguards are used to relieve the stress concentrated on the teeth by absorbing the shock vibrations that cause injury. Without a mouthguard to help cushion a blow to the face, a child is 60% more likely to suffer harm to the teeth.
And it’s not just injuries to the teeth. Mouthguards protect against cut lips and cheeks. A recent study by the American Academy of General Dentistry suggests that mouthguards can prevent some sports-related concussions, by helping to absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw
Types of Mouthguards
There are several different kinds of mouthguards. They ARE NOT all created equal. They vary in price and quality.
- Custom Made. While the most expensive at $100-$300, this kind is considered the best of the best. It can be customized not only for the person but for the sport, providing more cushioning and coverage for higher contact sports. A dentist or dental lab will take impressions of your child’s teeth and then create a custom “mold” of their teeth to fabricate the final mouthguard from. Because they are custom-made for your child, they are more comfortable and less bulky than the “Boil-and-Bite”. Another advantage for custom-made mouthguards is that your dentist can make any adjustments necessary after fabrication, to ensure continued fit throughout use of the mouthguard.
Watch out for online custom-made kits. The materials included may not be enough for the size of your child’s mouth. Also, if you make a mistake with the material you may come up short in making the mouthguard as well. Make sure to check if the online company offers replacements kits if you should need more material.
- Boil-and-Bite. Price range for this type of mouthguard varies from $3-$40. You can find them at any local superstore (Walmart, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods). This type is done at home where you boil water and place the horseshoe-shaped plastic into the water. Once softened according to directions, remove and have your child bite firmly until the plastic has cooled. Some of the common problems that arise from this type of mouthguard are poor coverage due to improper sizing. Also, the thin, spongy layer on the inside gets thinned out during the fitting process which compromises coverage.
- Stock, “Ready Use”. These can be bought at pretty much every superstore as well. There are little cheaper yet than Boil-and-Bite; only $1-$15. They come in 4 sizes: Small, medium, large, extra-large. These provide even less coverage than a Boil-and-Bite. Often the fit is so poor that the athlete is forced to clench their teeth during activity just to hold it in place.
Remember, less expensive might be easier on your budget at first but keep in mind that a compromised fit of your child’s mouthguard makes it less effective. A typical white filling is $120 or more. Major tooth repair from a fractured tooth (root canal, crown) can be thousands of dollars. That’s 10-30 times the cost of a custom mouthguard!
Tips on “shopping” for Mouthguard As mentioned above, prices and quality vary. Here are some tips for when getting a mouthguard for your child that can save you some $$$ without compromising the quality.
- Tip #1- Check your dental insurance. If you have dental insurance, there is a good possibility that it will cover that cost to have a mouthguard made at your dentist. Insurance companies would rather pay $300 for a mouthguard than $2000 for a root canal.
- Tip #2- Check with your dentist. Dentists want the public to know and be educated on the importance of protecting against sports related dental injuries. Because of this, dentists will often offer “deals” on sports mouthguards in August. Some dentists include it free with a dental cleaning and exam while others offer significant discounts.
- Tip #3- Look for the ADA Seal of approval. If you are going to purchase a Boil-and-Bite or Stock mouthguard, make sure the American Dental Association has given the brand its seal of approval. To earn their seal of approval, a company must submit material lists for review and demonstrate that the product meets ADA guidelines and ADA-developed dental standards.
- Tip #4- Check with your child’s school. Many local schools have dentists and dental labs that come to the school to fit and make custom sports mouthguards. Normally, this cost is included in the sports sign-up fee.
Sports mouthguards prevent 200,000 sports related dental injuries per year. Make sure your child is as safe as they can be when they are on the playing field.
Featured Contributor: Nicole Kilgore
Nicole is a dental hygienist with over 17 years in the field. She is passionate about children’s dental health, and educating the public as to how it is linked to overall health. And it just so happens that her husband, Ken Kilgore, also shares an interest on keeping kids healthy and safe — he makes customized children’s beds to help a child transition from crib to big kids bed in a fun way.