Extreme sports are growing in popularity. These days, mountain biking and ice-skating are just as likely to appear on holiday itineraries as cocktails and sunbathing.
Meanwhile, at home, the rise of mixed martial arts and other combat sports have made a huge leap forward in popularity.
All this keeps dentists very busy treating cracked, broken and even missing teeth from sports injuries that could easily be avoided with a simple, inexpensive device.
Mouth guards were originally developed by a British dentist to protect boxers in the ring from dental injury. Since then, they have grown in popularity and are now used by athletes in a range of sports.
Three types of mouthguards are available: Ready-made, bite and boil, and custom made.
Ready-Made Mouth Guards
Ready-made mouth guards are available at most sports shops, especially those catering for boxing, rugby and other more physical sports. While they work well, they are bulky and not particularly comfortable. Ready-made mouth guards are good for occasional use when comfort isn’t much of a concern and only light levels of protection are necessary.
Boil and Bite Mouth Guards
Boil and bite mouth guards give a much better fit than their shop-bought, ready-made counterparts. They are made from thermoplastic which softens when heated. Biting the mouth guard when after it has been softened from heat by boiling in water allows the guard to form perfectly around the teeth, providing much more comfort. However, boil and bite mouth guards are still fairly bulky.
Custom-Made Mouth Guards
If you’re going to wear a mouth guard regularly – especially for tougher sports like mixed martial arts, then a custom-made guard could be the way to go. They are made using an imprint taken by a dentist – just when fitting for dentures. Although they do cost a little more than regular mouth guards, custom-made ones offer improved protection and comfort. And because they are engineered to fit your teeth by a dentist, they can be produced to fit around straightening braces or brackets.
Looking After Your Mouth Guard
Like any in-mouth appliance, mouth guards should be cleaned regularly. Wearers usually do so with a regular toothbrush and toothpaste before and after wear. It should be stored in a porous container in a cool place and should also be checked regularly for wear and tear.
As well as protecting the teeth, mouth guards are useful as splints for treating bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorders. They are also widely used in some chemical treatments such as bleaching or teeth whitening