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Mouth Guards

Does my child need a sports mouth guard?

Many people of all ages engage in sports activities. Some sports are so-called contact sports and others are not. The chances for dental injury are different for each sport and each player. There are two general types of injuries: 1. direct injury, and 2. indirect injury. Direct injury results when the jaws and teeth are hit directly by something. This type of injury can result from someone's elbow in basketball (a so-called non contact sport), a puck in the mouth, or a baseball bat to the jaws. Direct injury is usually extensive due to the force involved, and the lack of any protective equipment between the victim and the moving object causing the injury. Bones and teeth as well as soft tissue are usually involved. The other type of injury is indirect injury. This type of injury results when a person recieves a blow to the face (which has been protected by a helmet or other means) or another part of the body and the shock of the impact causes the victim to bite his teeth together suddenly. Usually the teeth do not come together perfectly so parts of the teeth are broken off or lips and cheek are damaged by the action of the teeth coming together in a bite that is not the normal bite for that person. This is the type of injury a person would receive is he was playing a sport wearing a helmet with a face mask. Some people receive indirect dental injury by falling. Indirect injury is usually less severe than direct injury.

Damage resulting from direct injury to the teeth and jaws can be minimized by use of a mouth guard. Damage resulting from indirect injury many times is eliminated by use of a mouth guard. If forces are too great in an indirect injury, some damage may occur even if the victim is wearing a mouth guard, but the damage is reduced significantly by use of a guard.

Mouth guards come in a variety of types. Probably the most common type is the boil and bite type. This kind of mouth guard is effective and very inexpensive. The dentist or dental staff can make a similar type of mouth guard that is more effectively custom fitted than a boil and bite guard. There are comfort advantages as well as effectiveness of protection advantages to a dentist made mouth guard over a boil and bite mouth guard. The dentist makes an impression of the person's teeth and the guard is made using this impression. A custom fitted mouth guard fits much better than a boil and bite guard. A custom guard can be made so that is stays in place with significant suction. This is an advantage over the boil and bite type because no matter what position the player finds himself in, the mouth guard remains in place. No biting action on the part of the player is required to keep the guard in its protective position over the teeth.

If you have questions regarding mouth guards, ask your dentist. The cost of fixing teeth can be very high, often surpassing $1000 per tooth if it is broken off at or near the gum line. A mouth guard is effective insurance against all but the most forceful blows, at least minimizing and often eliminating the damage that can be caused. Play your best and play smart.

- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)

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