Just days ago piles of snow lined our streets, but Cecily Tynan is calling for warm temperatures ahead… Spring is here, finally. Regardless of the weather, spring brings sports! Soccer, lacrosse, and baseball to name a few. For most of you sports parents, the spring also brings to mind after school practices, busy sports schedules, and dewy Saturday mornings in the stands with a hot cup of coffee in your hands.
What you may not be thinking about is your little athletes face and jaw protection.
How many of your kids play sports and do not wear a mouth guard? It may seem trivial. However, it can protect them from serious injury. Ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, and football are the only sports required by schools to wear mouth guards. Yet, sports like volleyball, soccer, basketball, and wrestling can have serious facial injuries as well. More kids than ever are participating in competitive sports and with that is an increase of injury. The American Dental Association reports that 36% of all unintentional injuries involving youth are sports related and of that, 20% are maxillofacial (jaw and face) injuries.
That is startling.
We see injuries in every sport.
What can you do to protect your children during games? It is a simple answer: have them wear a mouth guard while playing sports. What is a mouth guard? A mouth guard is made of a laminate material or soft plastic. They are worn during sports for maxillofacial (jaw and face) protection. What does a mouth guard do? They help prevent injuries that can happen during sports. They help prevent injuries to the mouth, teeth, tongue, cheeks, and jaw. They also protect against injuries to the head and neck. A mouth guard will cushion blows that could potentially cause concussions or jaw fractures. Those in orthodontic treatment should especially wear mouth guards for even lower contact sports to prevent damage to their lips from the brackets.
What kind of mouth guard is best? Definitely bring this up with your dentist. She will discuss all the options available from custom-made guards to the over-the-counter kind you can find at sporting goods stores. There are plenty of options. Depending on your child’s specific needs, you can get the best recommendation from your dentist. But, the best mouth guard is the one that your child will actually wear.
–An “off the shelf” mouth guard: This is a mouth guard that you can find in any sporting goods store. It is designed to fit most mouths with only a limited selection in sizes. Which means it will offer limited protection. An ill fitting mouth guard is better then no mouth guard. It is likely the least expensive option. Since it is not made to fit their specific mouth the child needs to clench to keep in in place which makes speaking and breathing a little difficult.
–A “Boil and Bite” mouth guard: Also found in most sporting good stores, the boil and bite guard offers a bit more protection. After sitting in hot water it is placed in the mouth and formed to the teeth by heat and pressure. It does not offer the best fit and can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable.
-Custom mouth guard: This requires a dental visit where we make a mold of the teeth and use high quality material to make a strong and durable maximum protection mouth guard at a reasonable cost.
When it comes to your young athlete, remember that they are still growing! Changes to their teeth, mouth, and jaw will happen over time. Be sure to visit your dentist regularly and bring the mouth guard along. A dentist can evaluate the guard and will be able to ensure it is still fitting properly. Happy Spring!