If your child is playing sports such as football, basketball, or hockey, or participating in similar recreational activities, you might already be familiar with the protective equipment needed. Same as for their head, knees, or shoulders, your child’s teeth also need protection during these activities.

Mouthguards, or mouth protectors, are flexible pieces of plastic that fit into your child’s mouth, and cushion a blow to the face, reducing the risk of injuries as well as protecting the teeth from potential dental emergencies caused by an accidental impact on the mouth. Usually covering the upper teeth, they will also protect the soft tissues of the tongue, lips, and cheek lining.

Athletes are more likely to suffer injuries to their teeth if they are not using a mouthguard, which makes mouthguards part of the recommended standard equipment for children playing sports. Your child should be wearing a mouthguard, especially during activities and contact sports where they will be in physical contact with another child.

What Injuries Do Mouthguards Prevent?

Wearing a mouthguard is an important part of protecting your kid’s teeth and reducing the risk of serious injuries, which include:

  • Lacerations (a cut or tear in the tongue, gums, cheeks, or lips)
  • Tooth fractures
  • Tooth intrusion
  • Dislodged or knocked-out teeth
  • Jaw fracture

Not only do these injuries cause physical pain, they can also have psychological and economic consequences for both children and parents. When a young athlete suffers a dental injury, it can impact their self-esteem, confidence, and social interactions, as their bright smile may be momentarily or permanently altered.

Moreover, the associated costs of treating such injuries, including emergency dental visits, follow-up appointments, and potential orthodontic treatments, can place a significant financial burden on parents. Thus, wearing properly fitted mouthguards is essential to mitigating these outcomes and fostering a safe and enjoyable sporting environment for your kid.

3 Types of Mouthguards

Stock mouthguards

Inexpensive and pre-formed, these mouthguards come ready to wear and might not fit very well with your child’s teeth. This type of mouthguard needs to be held in place by clenching the teeth, which could potentially make breathing and talking more difficult than when wearing a custom-made or boil-and-bite version. However, wearing this type of mouthguard is better than skipping them entirely as it still offers some level of protection.

Boil and bite mouthguards

Also known as mouth-formed mouthguards, these are available at many sporting goods stores, drugstores, and online retailers. This type of mouthguard is softened in boiling water and then inserted into the mouth to adapt to the shape of your child’s mouth. This model offers better protection over the stock mouthguard.

Custom-fitted mouthguards

As the name suggests, this mouthguard type is custom-made by a dentist specifically for your child’s mouth. The mouthguard should encase all teeth in at least one dental arch for maximum retention, protection, and cushioning. Although slightly more expensive than the other two options, this type of mouthguard offers the best protection and will also fit more comfortably.

Choosing the Best Mouthguard for Your Child

The best mouthguard for your child is one that fits snuggly against their upper teeth and stays in place without shifting or falling. It is especially important to get the right mouthguard if your child is wearing braces, fixed retainers, or fixed bridge work. In this case, mouthguards provide a barrier between the dental appliances – that could also suffer damage from a blow to the face – and your child’s cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries.

If your child has removable braces or retainers, they should not be worn during contact sports, and mouthguards should be worn instead. It’s best to talk to your child’s dentist to choose the right mouthguard type.

How to Encourage Your Child to Wear a Mouthguard

Despite the protective benefits, a recent survey shows that the majority of youth participating in sports activities are still not wearing mouthguards. Parents play a crucial role in encouraging the use of mouthguards to prevent dental injuries. Some of the methods used include:

  • Communication. Discuss with your child the importance of mouthguard use during sports and the potential consequences of dental injuries associated with the activity.
  • Involvement. Involve your child in the selection process by allowing them to choose a mouthguard with a design or color that appeals to them, making it more likely that they will feel comfortable and excited about wearing it.
  • Rewards. Creating a positive reinforcement system, such as rewarding your child for consistently wearing their mouthguard, can be an effective way to encourage this habit.
  • Collaboration. Work with your pediatric dentist to educate and remind your child during their regular dental visits to use their sports mouthguard.

How to Care for a Mouthguard

It’s important to properly care for your child’s mouthguard, but luckily, it’s also easy to do. Below are the recommended steps:

  • Rinse with water and brush the mouthguard with a delicate toothbrush and toothpaste before and after each use.
  • At least every few days, clean the mouthguard in cool water with scent-free neutral soap, and rinse it thoroughly.
  • Always store and transport the mouthguard in a sturdy, ventilated container.
  • Keep the mouthguard away from the sun, and don’t use it with hot water.
  • Regularly check your child’s mouthguard for wear and tear, and replace it when needed.

In conclusion, your child’s safety should be of the utmost importance. Whether on the basketball court or on the field during a big game, mouthguards can mitigate risks and protect your child’s teeth. After all, prevention is key!

Read also: The 5 Most Common Causes of Cavities in Children

If you are in search of a children’s dentist in Lafayette or the surrounding areas to help ensure your little one receives quality dental care while playing sports, schedule an appointment at Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry.

Our pediatric dental specialists provide personalized dental care for your child. Get what’s best for your child’s oral health with the best care in town! Book an appointment today.