Sports can play an important role in a child’s development by helping to build a strong sense of competitiveness and cooperation, while also improving physical health. A parent’s worse nightmare, injuries can occur during any physical activity, but especially during sports. While little can be done to prevent your child from spraining an ankle or breaking a bone, parents can take precautions to help protect the long-term health of their child’s teeth by having him or her wear a mouth guard.
Kids who wear mouth guards while playing sporting significantly reduce their risk of suffering an oral health related injury to the soft tissue in the mouth, tongue, lips, or teeth. Wearing a mouth guard will also help your child avoid chipping or breaking a tooth, suffering nerve damage to a tooth, and tooth loss. To help you understand the different options available when selecting a mouth guard for your child, here’s a handy guide.
Types of Mouth Guards
Parents have three main types of mouth guards in which to select from that include stock, boil-and-bite, and custom fitted. There are a variety of different types of custom fitted mouth guards available, so you need to inform your dentist about the type of sports your child plays so the most appropriate type of guard can be selected. The type of protection your child will receive while playing sports greatly depends on the type of mouth guard he or she is wearing.
- Stock mouth guards. Available at most sporting good stores, stock guards are worn unchanged from how they come packaged. In most cases, stock guards don’t adequately fit a child’s teeth and can become easily dislodged during an incident. When your child opens her mouth to talk or breath, this type of guard can fall out due to it’s poor fitting. While many brands of stock mouth guards offer a dollar guarantee against any lost or damaged teeth that occur when wearing the guard, these types of warranties rarely provide adequate coverage.
- Boil-and-Bite mouth guards. Made from materials that soften when heated, boil-and-bite guards offer more protection and a better fit compared to stock guards. As the name suggests, parents fit these types of guards by boiling them, and then having the wearer bite down until the material cools and forms its new shape. Unfortunately, because of the pliable nature of the materials used, boil-and-bite mouth guards don’t last very long before they need replacing. Most kids will chew through this type of guard after only a few weeks.
- Custom fitted mouth guards. By far the best option for protecting the health of your child’s teeth, custom mouth guards are created by a cosmetic dentist using dental molds taken of your child’s teeth. After fashioning a mold, your dentist sends it off to a dental lab where a custom guard that perfectly fits your child’s teeth will be created. Because of the custom fit, these types of guards are guaranteed to stay in place and not shift or fall out when your child opens his mouth. The materials used in custom guards are also extremely durable, which means they last longer and provide better protection. However, custom mouth guards cost significantly more in comparison to store bought alternatives, and may not be covered by your insurance.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Children and adults should always wear a mouth guard whenever playing contact and non-contact sports, and any other recreational activity that poses a potential risk of oral injury. While it might seem obvious that kids who play football, soccer, and lacrosse all need to wear a mouth guard, the same applies for children who play sports such as softball, water polo, volleyball, gymnastics, and wrestling. Many school districts have made wearing a mouth guard mandatory for any student athlete, so be sure to check what requirements your child must meet prior to purchasing any type of guard.
A parent of two, John Nickelbottom is a freelance health writer.