With the upcoming youth sports season just around it corner, it’s time to head the local equipment shop and stock up on all the necessary athletic paraphernalia for the coming year. This time around, you might consider adding another piece of equipment to your shopping cart: a protective mouthguard.
These devices cost anywhere from two dollars to twenty. Although they have been required in the NFL and several Pop Warner football leagues for several years, dentists recommend them for any contact sport, including soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, and even for noncontact sports like gymnastics and for recreational activities like skateboarding and mountain biking. By separating your teeth and stabilizing your jaws with a thin sheet of plastic, mouth guards defend against orofacial injuries (those that relate to your mouth and face). In fact, a 2007 study of a broad range of sports found that athletes who did not wear mouthguards placed themselves at a 1.9 times greater risk of injury than those who did. Considering that those injuries can include broken jaws, missing teeth, and concussions, and that treatment can cost thousands of dollars, a mouthguard is an economical and wise investment.
Not all mouth protectors are created equal, however. Three types are currently available on the market: stock (which are pre-shaped), boil and bite (which you melt and then bite, so that it conforms to your jaw), and custom-fitted (which are prepared by a licensed dentist). Almost all experts agree that custom-fitted are ideal. Several studies have questioned the utility of boil and bite mouth guards, arguing that they deteriorate too quickly and are too thin to provide proper protection. All of them, though, are better than nothing, and should be worn during athletic activity.
When it comes to mouth protection, the facts speak for themselves: mouthguards provide a cheap and easy way to avoid expense and pain.