The Academy for Sports Dentistry gives the following definition: Sports Dentistry involves the prevention and treatment of orofacial athletic injuries and related oral diseases, as well as the collection and dissemination of information on dental athletic injuries. Sports Dentistry also encourages research in the prevention of such injuries.

One of the most effective ways you can protect your teeth is by wearing a mouth guard. Many people do not give a second thought about wearing any type of mouth guard when participating in their chosen sports, but before you hop on your mountain bike, or head out the door for a neighborhood basketball game, you may want to consider protecting a very important part of your anatomy your mouth.

Most individuals agree that it is essential to wear mouth guards while participating in contact sports such as football, boxing, martial arts, and hockey. However, those participating in other non-contact sports, including baseball, bicycle riding, soccer, racquetball, surfing and skateboarding are also at risk of sustaining injuries. Even heavy weightlifting can cause a problem if you forcefully clench your teeth during an intense workout. Properly fitted mouth guards may significantly reduce dental injuries associated with these types of sports. The good news is you can obtain a custom fit mouth guard from your dentist.

According to WebMD, there are three major types of mouth guards: stock mouth protectors, boil and bite mouth protectors, and custom-fitted mouth protectors.

The Stock Mouth Guard is typically the most inexpensive mouth guard available in most sporting goods stores, yet it offers the least amount of protection. Little can be done to adjust the fit, making breathing and talking more difficult. Most dentists do not recommend their use.

Boil and Bite Mouth Guards are available in sporting goods stores, and are also relatively inexpensive. The mouth guard is placed in hot water to soften, then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth using finger and tongue pressure. While the boil and bite method can offer slightly better protection than the stock mouth guard, a custom-fitted mouth protector is still the best option.

Custom-fit Mouth Guards are obtained through your dental office or a professional laboratory based on your dentist instructions. First, your dentist will make an impression of your teeth. A mouth guard is then molded over the model using a special material. Typically, mouth guards cover your upper teeth only; however, your dentist can make a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well. A custom-made guard is more expensive that the other types, but it provides the most comfort and protection.

Children, Dentistry and Sports

The National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries reports that dental injuries are one the most common type of oral facial injuries sustained during participation in sports.

Parents and coaches should strongly encourage children to wear mouth guards. If children get used to wearing mouth guards at an early age, they will be more likely to continue to wear them as they get older and participate in progressively competitive sports. In fact, coaches can instill the idea of wearing a mouth guard by suggesting that all team players wear the same color or design. Children would be more likely to wear mouth guards if they are viewed as trendy or cool.

Special designs can also be made to accommodate patients with braces. The structure of the mouth guards would need to allow for orthodontic movement without compromising on injury prevention and fit. This can only be achieved through consultations with your dentist.

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