If you have sons — or daughters — who’ve enrolled in a contact sport like football, martial arts or boxing, they may need a mouth protector called a mouth guard to protect their teeth. Mouth guards may be necessary to care for braces, to prevent teeth grinding or to protect fixed bridgework. Visit your dentist Dr. Mila Cohen if your child has any of these potential risks.
Mouth guards act as a buffer between the lips and teeth, and can protect the teeth and gums from direct physical contact. Mouth guards also protect braces and the soft tissue inside the mouth from damage. A kids dentist in New Jersey Dr. Mila Cohen of True Dental Care for Kids & Teens has experience protecting children’s teeth and can recommend the appropriate mouth guard.
Protection Where It’s Needed
Basically, wherever there’s a possibility of contact to the mouth, some sort of mouth protection should be used. Mouth guards offer the following benefits:
- They remain in place during physical activities.
- They don’t limit breathing while permitting speaking.
- They’re easy to clean and very durable.
- They are typically comfortable.
- They are odorless, tasteless, resilient and tear-resistant.
For college athletes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) mandates mouth protection for football, hockey, field hockey and lacrosse. The American Dental Association suggests using mouth guards for 29 sports, including: basketball, boxing, discuss and shot put, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, rugby, skateboarding, skiing, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo and wrestling.[pgcallout]
Benefits of Wearing a Mouth Guard
Some dentists specialize in sports dentistry. They can better equip you with the information you need to obtain the best mouth guard for your child’s chosen activity. Visit your dentist in New Jersey to discuss all the benefits of wearing a mouth guard for your child’s safety. It’s also a sound precaution for people of all ages participating in most sports for many reasons, including:
Mouth guards also protect your child from more serious injuries — like concussion, jaw fracture and cerebral hemorrhage — by stopping the lower jaw from colliding into the upper jaw. Mouth guards also prevent damage to soft tissue in the mouth, reducing bruising and cutting of your kids’ lips, cheeks and tongue. Mouth guards are most helpful with children who also wear orthodontics like braces or space maintainers.
Not One Size Fits All
Mouth guards are made in different shapes, styles and sizes. They typically come in three different types:
- Custom-made mouth guards are the most expensive kind. Your dentist makes an impression of your child’s teeth, and the mouth guard is molded in a lab. However, custom mouth guards are also the most comfortable because they provide the best fit.
- These are mouth guards that you can buy at a sporting goods store or drug store. They come pre-formed, so they’re the least comfortable since they don’t fit the mouth perfectly. They can sometimes make breathing more difficult.
- Mouth-formed. These are the mouth guards that mold to the teeth after being boiled. They are made either of a thermoplastic material or a rubber or acrylic gel. Both types mold to the teeth and maintain that shape. Both types can be found online, at drug stores and sporting goods stores. While they’re better fitting than stock mouth guards, they can be a little more bulky than the custom ones and don’t provide the same level of protection and comfort.
Mouth guards with a custom fit are made to protect all the teeth against blows to the chin. Some have soft inner layers and a hard outer lining for comfort. The dentist can help you pick the right kind for your child. Also, keep in mind that your child is growing and may need to be evaluated by a dentist between sports seasons to determine if a new mouth guard is required.
Other Mouth Pieces
Your dentist in Jersey may recommend other forms of mouth protection for your child. These can include bite splints (also called occlusal splints), Michigan splints, bite planes, and night guards. These are all removable appliances that protect teeth and dental restorations. These appliances are custom-fitted to the lower or upper teeth, and they’re effective at managing pain and issues caused by jaw problems like neck aches and headaches. Dentists also use them to stabilize your child’s bite between dental procedures.
If your child suffers from grinding or clenching of the teeth during naps or during the night, a mouth guard can help. Teeth grinding is referred to as bruxism in the medical community, and night guards can reduce friction on the teeth, which lessens the risk of chipping and breaking teeth inadvertently.
The difference between splints and night guards are that splints are worn all the time while night guards are only worn at night when your child is sleeping. Occlusal splints shouldn’t be worn during any kind of athletic activity as they aren’t as strong as mouth guards and can’t provide the same level of protection. Mila can walk you through these options — as well as other orthodontic care — for your child.
Even More Options
Another way to protect teeth for those kids who grind is called an anterior deprogrammer. These mouth guards work to relax the jaw muscles to prevent clenching and grinding. They may be worn during the day and night, depending on the severity of your child’s condition.
There are a few types of anterior deprogrammers:
- Nociception Trigeminal Inhibitor (NTI). The NTI mouth guard is made of clear plastic. Worn over the front teeth, it works to prevent contact with back teeth to alleviate bruxism, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and tension headaches.
- Kois appliances. These appliances are typically worn during the night to reduce headache pain and muscle fatigue.
- Bruxism (B) splint. B splints may be worn on the upper or lower teeth. They’re typically worn during the day. When they’re worn at night, it’s in conjunction with another device to help prevent grinding and bite changes.