College basketball fans are gearing up for one of the most exciting times of the season — March Madness. But when it comes to basketball, or any type of high-impact sport, McLean DDS wants patients to understand the importance of protecting teeth with mouthguards.

Whenever you or your child participate in a sport that involves a lot of movement, there is always a chance for collision with a person or hard surface. When this happens, the oral cavity is at risk for a serious dental injury. Mouthguards are essential pieces of athletic gear for kids and adults who participate in sports such as hockey, football, basketball, martial arts and boxing. Wearing proper mouth protection significantly reduces the risk for common injuries to the face and mouth — chipped or fractured teeth, broken jaw bones and soft tissue lacerations.

Not all mouthguards are created equal. Here’s a look at the types of mouth protection available and how to decide which one is best for you.

Types of Mouthguards
A mouthguard is made of soft plastic and is worn inside the mouth like a retainer to protect the lips, cheeks, teeth and tongue from harm during intense activity. There are three main types of mouthguards:

  • Stock mouthguards: This type of mouth protection is inexpensive and can be found at most sporting goods stores or pharmacies. Preformed stock mouthguards come in “one size fits all,” and as a result, they are bulky, uncomfortable and make it difficult to breathe or talk. Because of their limited protection and poor fit, stock mouthguards are not typically recommended.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards: This type of mouthguard offers a slightly better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are made from a thermoplastic substance and must be softened in boiling water before they can be used. Once soft, the mouthguard can be shaped around the individual’s teeth with their fingers and tongue.
  • Custom-fitted mouthguards: For optimal protection, custom-fitted mouthguards designed by your dentist are the best option. Unlike over-the-counter mouthguards, the materials used for custom mouth protectors are durable without being excessively bulky, and comfortable enough to talk and breathe with ease. During the initial appointment, the dentist will take impressions of the patient’s teeth and then mold the protector to accommodate the individual’s precise needs and fit.

To function best, it is important to take care of your mouthguard by storing it properly and keeping it clean. Wash your mouthguard after every use to prevent bacteria from growing on your equipment. Store it in a dry, ventilated container.

Remember, sports will come and go for many of us, but you have only one set of original teeth! Take the proactive route now to protect your teeth by wearing mouthguards when you play sports. Talk to McLean DDS about getting fitted for a custom mouthguard so the athletes in your family can enjoy their games without fear of a sudden dental emergency.

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