Teenagers and adults who wear braces often think they need to sacrifice their favorite sports for straight teeth and an attractive smile, but orthodontia doesn't always bench you from a season of play. A braces mouth guard protects braces as well as the teeth, gums and jaw, and options are available to suit most needs and budgets. With advice from the coach and your dentist, you can find the best solution for you or your child.
Mouth guards are mandatory to play football, boxing and other contact sports in an organized program, but you assume a certain risk of dental and orthodontic injury in low-contact sports as well. Broken or chipped teeth, fractured tooth roots, damage to dental appliances and similar mouth injuries can all take place when you play a competitive sport. Even when players contact one another with balls, rackets, bats and other equipment, the risk is just as high as it is when falling on a hard surface.
If the player is wearing braces, an incident may require expensive treatment to repair the braces and fix any damage they may have done to the teeth. Luckily, you can lower the chances of damage almost twofold by wearing the right mouth guard, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
How This Item Differs
Braces mouth guards usually provide a little more room than regular mouth guards, but they offer the same level of protection. Their extra width allows you to cover the braces as well as the teeth and gums, though the mouth guard should still fit comfortably and not impede your breathing.
Although over-the-counter (OTC) mouth guards are available, dentists offer custom products as well. Your everyday OTC braces mouth guard cannot be altered, and a boil-and-bite mouth guard is heated before you place it in your mouth and bite on it to provide a sufficient fit. At the dentist's office, however, the dentist asks you to bite on a mold, and a dental appliance manufacturer creates a mouth guard to fit the impression you've made exactly.
Which to Choose
Dental insurance, other sport equipment, fit and useful life of the mouth guard are some things to consider when choosing between an OTC or custom-fit braces mouth guard. Some insurance policies only apply to custom-fit mouth guards with respect to sports. So if you or your child is on a team, check with the coach to determine which type of mouth guard may be covered before purchasing one. Most mouth guards only fit over the upper arch, though the coach can also tell you if the sport requires a mouth guard for the lower arch as well.
Custom-fit mouth guards are more expensive than OTC products, but they offer the most comfort – which is important to most athletes. However, braces do alter the position of teeth and the fit may not be comfortable or effective a few weeks down the line. A stock mouth guard is the least expensive, but these rarely fit perfectly, providing minimal protection to teeth and braces as a result. Boil-and-bite mouth guards are more expensive than stock mouth guards, but they can be heated and remolded several times as braces cause the teeth to change position.
Caring for Mouth Guards
Keep in mind bacteria and fungi can gradually colonize used mouth guards, so it's important to clean them after taking them out. Brushing with a toothbrush such as Colgate® Extra Clean – along with a thorough toothpaste – cleans mouth guards effectively, or you can rinse them with an anti-microbial solution.
Popping in a mouth guard before playing sports is the most effective way of protecting braces while enjoying healthy exercise. Choosing the best from the range of options available ensures peace of mind and, over the long term, an attractive smile.