As a parent, you’ve probably gotten used to your kids losing their teeth. First, they wiggle, then they wobble back and forth, and before you know it you’re digging through your wallet to make sure the tooth fairy has enough to leave under their pillow.
At least that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.
What no parent wants is a call from the coach or the PE teacher telling them their child needs to see a dentist immediately. But research shows that one out of every 10 children will suffer a mouth injury during sports.
Many of these injuries don’t need to happen. We send our children out to play sports with knee and shoulder pads, shin guards and elbow pads, helmets and cleats — but far too often, parents forget to protect their child’s teeth and mouth.
The prevalence of sports injuries
While it may seem obvious that sports like football, hockey, and boxing are rife with dental injuries, sports with less physical contact like basketball, soccer, and volleyball can be just as dangerous, with swinging elbows and flying balls threatening your child’s dental health.
Even sports that don’t involve equipment being hurled in your child’s direction can be dangerous. Gymnastics, biking, and even figure skating all contribute to mouth injuries. Generally, whenever your child is moving, especially when they’re among other moving children, they’re at risk for getting a tooth knocked out.
Protecting your child’s teeth
Thankfully, there are a wide range of mouthguards on the market today, designed to cushion a blow to the teeth and hold the jaw in place, supporting both the jawbone and the teeth. While this doesn’t take all the risk out of sports, it does help to reduce the chance of tooth breakage and loss.
Mouthguards fall into three main categories:
1. Stock mouthguards
You can pick these up at just about any sports or big box store. Your child opens the package and pops the guard in their mouth. That’s it. Plus, they’re not terribly expensive — but they have their drawbacks.
You may have to buy several to see which mouthguard best fits your child’s mouth, and you’re probably not going to be able to return an unwanted mouthguard.
Even when you find a guard that fits your child’s mouth, it may not fit perfectly and may wobble in your child’s mouth as they run and play, making the guard uncomfortable. Many children will conveniently “forget” things that hurt their mouths, and that mouthguard won’t protect anything if it lives at the bottom of your child’s backpack.
2. Boil and bite mouthguards
These commercial mouthguards are widely available, and they fit a little bit better and are only a little more expensive than the stock mouthguards.
The big difference comes from their material. The plastic used in these mouthguards is designed so that when you heat it, your child can put it into their mouth where it will conform to their specific teeth and bite. They do have to be fairly hot in order to mold to the teeth, and many children find it uncomfortable to get the right fit.
3. Custom mouthguards
As you might expect, these are the most comfortable mouthguards for your child to wear. To fashion these guards, your dentist takes an impression of your child’s teeth and mouth and forms a mouthguard specifically for them, providing a perfect fit. Plus, unlike the boil and bite mouthguards, you don’t have to worry about heat changing the shape of the guard.
Caring for your mouthguard
Whichever mouthguard you and your child choose, it’s important to keep the guard clean and out of the sun. Most guards come with cases to separate them from dirty cleats and sports equipment, and the guard should be washed thoroughly after every use and kept dry between uses.
To find the best mouthguard option for your child, call Dr. Emanuel Mizrahi at Forest Hills Orthodontic Associates or book an appointment online. Together you can protect your child’s smile for a lifetime.