How Can I Protect My Teeth While Playing Sports?
An ounce or more of prevention is worth it when it involves protecting your jaw and teeth. The cost of replacing a lost tooth is about 20 times more than the price of a custom-fitted mouthguard.
Fortunately, learning how to protect your teeth when playing a sport or participating in close-contact recreational activities isn't as difficult as the frequency of these incidents suggests. In fact, the right gear has kept more than 200,000 injuries from occurring annually.
Team Sport Protection
There are two essential items if you play well with others.
The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) estimates that players who don't wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth during competition.
So, a mouthguard is a must when you play any sport that involves bats, balls, sticks, or person-to-person contact.
A typical mouthguard covers the top teeth and is good for one athletic season. They're designed to guard against cut lips, broken teeth, and other types of damage to the mouth.
There are three types of mouthguards:
- Stock mouthguards. This variety is ready to wear right out of the package. Though it's inexpensive, it might not fit very well nor be comfortable.
- Boil-and-bite mouthguards. This type of guard is precisely as it sounds. Boil a preformed piece of plastic and then bite into it for a customized fit. You can find boil-and-bite mouthguards at most sporting goods stores.
- Custom-made mouthguards. A sports dentist makes this type right in the office or in a dental lab. It's specifically designed for your mouth by using an impression of your teeth. From there, the mouthguard is crafted to fit over the impression.
Considering the customization and effort involved to fabricate these mouthguards, they are the most expensive. However, custom mouthguards provide the best fit and protection.
A sturdy helmet with a faceguard gives you an extra layer of protection in sports such as football or hockey. Other sports, such as baseball, require special headgear.
No matter the sport, if there's a chance of hard physical contact with your face or jaw, don the helmet.
Solo Sports Protection
Even though there's minimal to no risk of you being hit in the tooth with a ball, bat, or other person's arm when on a bike or pair of skis, you still face the potential of falling and coming into contact with the hard ground. You also can run into something, such as a tree or parked car, leading to injury from low visibility on a narrow trail or sidewalk.
Always wear a helmet to protect your head when cycling, skating, or skiing. Remember to choose the right kind for the sport for optimal protection. A mouthguard is also a good idea, as a helmet alone won't shield your teeth.
You face little risk of breaking a tooth while swimming – barring a bump to your mouth against a hard wall – but you still want to protect your mouth over long periods of pool time.
One of the best ways to do this if you're an avid swimmer is to ensure the pool you swim in is well maintained. If the pH of your swimming pool is too low (meaning it's too acidic), according to Delta Dental, you're at a higher risk for "swimmer's mouth." This condition can cause your teeth to stain and dental pain, as well as increase tartar (calculus) formation.
Along with maintaining your pool and keeping its chlorine levels at the recommended level, you can further protect your teeth by keeping your mouth closed when you swim. That way, chlorinated water doesn't come into contact with your teeth as often.