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Mouthguards from your dentist in Barrie

When engaged in contact sports, head protection is paramount and often mandatory.  To prevent dental injuries, a dentist-fabricated mouthguard can not only make wear more comfortable, it can also provide superior protection.  Read on to learn more!  With Barrie being such a big hockey town, parents should all read this.

(This post is not describing bite planes, which are hard appliances meant for nighttime wear, often to prevent damage to teeth from grinding or clenching.)

You may have heard from some people who do not believe in mouthguards, saying things like: “I knew someone who got hit in the mouth while wearing a mouthguard, and he still had his teeth broken”.  This may have been true, but still is not an argument for not wearing mouthguards.  Kindly ask these people if they also do not wear seatbelts because they “knew someone who got into a car accident while wearing a seatbelt, and he still got hurt”.  Mouthguards are not a guarantee, but they are better than nothing.  And since they are quite cheap and easy to wear, there is little reason not to wear them.

The big misconception about mouthguards is that they protect the teeth mainly from frontal impacts.  Obviously this is true, but an equally (if not more) important use is to absorb the impact of lower teeth crashing into upper teeth.  Tooth-to-tooth contact is a huge source of dental injury, and since teeth are often not clenched together perfectly during an impact, some sort of shock absorber will be helpful in taking the load.

Mouthguards can often be found in sports-supply stores in the form of a one-size-fits-all mould that is boiled until softened.  When soft, the wearer is supposed to bite into the material and mould it to the teeth.  These “boil-and-bite” mouthguards are typically cheap and not too difficult to manipulate.  However, these offer poorer protection and are not usually recommended.  In fact, there are only two situations where we will recommend these types of mouthguards:

1) The wearer is also undergoing orthodontic treatment, where the position of the teeth is constantly changing.  Boil-and-bite mouthguards are typically quite cost-efficient, so it’s not a big deal to buy a new one when the old one no longer fits.

2) The wearer is growing and actively losing baby teeth.  For the same reason, as teeth fall out and others come in, mouthguards no longer fit as well.  Simply for cost reasons, a boil-and bite guard will probably make more sense.

Note that in neither of the above situations do we feel that a boil-and-bite mouthguard is actually better, it’s just cheaper if you have to replace them frequently.  It the cost is not a concern, then definitely the custom mouthguards are your preferred choice.

Custom mouthguards are what we as a dental office would provide for the wearer.  These are made using a plaster mould of the patient’s teeth, where a sheet of mouthguard rubber (ethylene vinyl acetate) is vacuum-formed to fit that mould.  Not only is the end product better-fitting and therefore more comfortable (less likely to be dislodged during impact and easier to breathe with it in place), it will offer better protection because the thickness is more controlled.  Remember what we said about tooth-to-tooth impact?  Sometimes in the boil-and-bite process, too much pressure is used to bite down on the guard, thereby thinning it out so it no longer offers adequate protection.

Here are some tips on mouthguards:

1) These are typically worn on upper teeth, unless the wearer has a very prognathic (protrusive) lower jaw.  In those cases, it may be wiser to opt for a lower mouthguard.

2) You do not need two mouthguards, one on the top and one on the bottom.  Breathing and comfort would be much poorer.

3) The colour is important – select a colour that contrasts well with the playing surface of your sport.  So, for ice hockey avoid clear or white mouthguards.  For soccer, avoid green.  (If you play on some weird rainbow tie-dyed surface, you’re out of luck – take your pick).  This will help you find it if for some reason it flies out of your mouth.  Also, it is likely wise to avoid red – if there is injury that causes bleeding, you want to be able to identify bleeding quickly.

4) Replace them regularly.  No surprise if it doesn’t fit anymore on a growing child, but sometimes superstitions or habits or just plain laziness will prevent someone from getting a new one.  If a mouthguard thins out too much, it is no longer effective.  In general, mouthguards should be 3mm thick between the teeth and also 3mm in front of the teeth.

That’s all for this time!  Hope it was helpful.  If you would like to ask about sports/mouthguards or have a complete oral evaluation, please contact us!  We love to be your dentist in Barrie.

Dr. Elston Wong Portrait

About Dr. Elston Wong

Dr. Elston Wong completed his dental degree at The University of Toronto in 1999 before arriving in Barrie in 2002. After graduating, he continued to learn everything he could about dentistry. Now he has taken the time to share important information for anyone to read.

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