Anyone who participates in a sport that carries a significant risk of injury should wear a mouth protector. Sports like basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and volleyball all pose risks to your gum tissues, as well as your teeth. We usually think of football and hockey as the most dangerous to the teeth, but nearly half of sports-related mouth injuries occur in basketball and baseball.
A helmet can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, incidents of unconsciousness, jaw fractures and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouth guards are effective in moving soft tissue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.
Mouth protectors, which typically cover the upper teeth, can cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth. If you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw, a mouth protector is available for these teeth as well.
A properly fitted mouth protector may be especially important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. A blow to the face could damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. A mouth protector also provides a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries. Although mouth protectors typically only cover the upper teeth, your dentist or orthodontist may suggest that you use a mouth protector on the lower teeth if you have braces on these teeth too. If you have a retainer or other removable appliance, do not wear it during any contact sports.
Types of mouth guards
There are three types of mouth protectors:
- Stock – Inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don’t fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
- Boil and bite – Can be bought at many sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They should be softened in water, then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. If you don’t follow the directions carefully you can wind up with a poor-fitting mouth protector.
- Custom-fitted – Made by your dentist for you personally. They are more expensive than the other versions, but because they are customized, they can offer a better fit than anything you can buy off the shelf.
There is never a suitable substitute for daily brushing and flossing.
While some products, including water irrigation devices (or “water picks”), may be useful for specific applications, they may not be as effective as traditional flossing in the removal of plaque.
Water picks use powerful tiny bursts of water to blast away food particles and other debris in hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. Dentists use professional-grade water picks when preparing a tooth for restoration, or in general cleaning and exams.
People with painful gum disease or highly sensitive gums may find water picks useful for supplementing their brushing regimen. People with orthodontia, including braces, have found water picks quite useful because toothbrush bristles often get stuck.
Dental floss comes in a variety of colors, materials and even flavors. Waxed varieties slide through the teeth, allowing people with extremely tight spaces to floss more easily. Popular flavors of floss include wintergreen and cinnamon. Waxed floss does tend to fray more than unwaxed floss.
A type of material called dental tape can be effective for people with large spaces between their teeth, or for people with bridge work.
Floss can be purchased in small self-dispensing boxes. Floss can also be purchased in special, single-use holders, which are useful for people who have a hard time wrapping floss around their fingers, including those with dexterity problems or arthritis.
Never before has there been such a dizzying array of toothbrushes on the market. Consumers are inundated with new designs, materials, attachments, and colors. Whatever toothbrush design you choose, the most important thing is that you use the toothbrush at least 2-3 times a day. Moreover, how long you spend brushing your teeth is as critical as how often you brush. This ensures complete plaque removal in hard to reach areas.
Mechanical and manual toothbrushes
Our dental team highly recommends a mechanical (electric) toothbrush. The pulsations break up plaque efficiently. Many models now have timers to remind you to brush longer.
It is always nice to have a backup manual toothbrush. When choosing a manual toothbrush, look for a compact head with very soft, rounded bristles.
Visit any pharmacy or the health and beauty section of a supermarket today, and you are faced with a large, and many say confusing, array of over-the-counter remedies and devices designed to help you tend to your hygiene and health-care needs.
There are many high-quality products on the market today. There also are many products of dubious value.
Whatever over-the-counter dental product you buy, it is strongly advised that you ensure it has the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.
Over-the-counter dental instruments are fraught with danger. These include scaling devices and picks. Use of the products, even when following the instructions, can put your teeth and the soft tissue of your mouth at risk of tearing, bruising and other injury. You also may accidentally chip a tooth.
It is best to consult our office instead of trying to do a repair job yourself.