Many athletes have forgotten mouthguards as part of their key equipment. Mouthguards came into use in the 1920s in the sport of boxing. It is obvious that mouthguards are great for protecting your mouth from broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face and jaw in these types of contact sports. It can also be beneficial for those unsuspecting sports such as gymnastics, baseball or even skateboarding.
Research has shown that sporting activities are linked to one-third of all dental injuries. School children between the ages of 7-11 are the most susceptible to sports-related oral injuries since thousands of kids play at least one organized sport. Many children and adolescents are now undergoing orthodontic work and a mouthguard becomes even more important in these cases. Due to the nature of the orthodontic appliances in the mouth the severity of a sports-related oral injury increases. Since a single traumatic injury to the dentition may never heal completely and can create lifelong problems, one is smart to wear a mouthguard for injury prevention. Mouthguards are effective at injury prevention because they have resilient surfaces that are able to distribute and dissipate the forces the athlete is experiencing upon impact by separating the cheeks and lips from the teeth.
Different Types of Mouthguards
1) Ready-made stock mouthguards
- Easy to buy from most sporting goods stores but have limited sizes, are less comfortable and made from less durable material. In order to hold it in place the athlete must close their mouth tight and risk interfering with breathing and speech.
2) Mouth-formed boil-and-bite mouthguards
- Can be purchased from most sporting goods stores these offer a more personalized fit as they soften and mold to your teeth after boiling.
3) Custom-made mouthguards
- You can have your dentist make a customized mouthguard. This kind of mouthguard provides the best fit and is most comfortable when compared to store bought mouthguards.
Two birds with one stone? – Protect and Enhance –
Can a mouthguard actually improve your athletic performance? Research has been conducted to determine if athletes experienced detrimental effects to their sport while wearing mouthguards. The expectation when beginning this research was that it would have negative effects but the results actually showed the opposite! It is reported that athletes’ performances are enhanced in mostly power-type events even though there is some evidence that endurance-type events may also benefit because of the effect it has on gas exchange. Using a mouthguard may have the same stress response as the “fight or flight” response, which causes the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Further research has been conducted that has shown these responses to be beneficial on a short-term basis but may have negative effects in the long-term. This is what initiated the idea of custom mouthguards that prevent the teeth from occluding or clenching under stress.
The American Society of Sports Medicine does not endorse the findings of this research at this time as the it is preliminary and further research is needed to support the idea.
Copyright 2013 The Children’s Oral Care Centre