Mouthguards are an essential accessory for any high-impact sports. In order to keep your child safe, it is essential that you, as a parent, know when your child should be wearing a mouthguard, what type of mouthguard they should have, and how to correctly fit their mouthguard. Lastly, since many children are resistant to wearing protective gear in sports, it is important that you remind your children why it is important to wear a mouthguard.
What Sports Warrant a Mouthguard?
While most coaches encourage children to wear mouthguards in sports like boxing, football, martial arts, wrestling, hockey, and lacrosse, there are actually several other sports that, ideally, should also require mouthguards. According to the American Dental Association, you should encourage your child to wear a mouthguard during skiing, skateboarding, basketball, gymnastics, surfing, soccer, water polo, etc. Unfortunately, depending on the culture of the sport, it can sometimes seem unpopular to wear protective gear; nevertheless, your child will be grateful when they realize the protection that mouthguards provide.
What Mouthguard Should You Get?
There are actually multiple options when it comes to mouthguards. Each option varies in expense, quality, availability, and protection:
- Stock Mouthguards: These are ready-to-use mouthguards that you can purchase at your local sports store or online. Just be cautious because, since they are not form-fitting to your child’s mouth, they do not offer as much protection. Nevertheless, if you do not have the budget for a custom-made mouthguard, stock mouthguards are often better than nothing.
- “Boil and Bite” Mouthguards: Also known as mouth-formed mouthguards, these mouthguards are slightly more personalized than stock mouthguards. The athlete is supposed to bite down into a heated thermoplastic rim, which then cools into the shape of the athlete’s mouth. One weakness of this method is that they tend to be more flimsy compared to a custom mouthguard.
- Custom Mouthguards: Whenever it comes to mouth protection, custom is almost always the best option. Custom mouthguards can be created by your child’s dentist and are made to fit your child’s mouth perfectly. Due to the materials used to make these mouthguards, as well as the better fit of the mouthguard to your child’s mouth, custom mouthguards offer the greatest oral protection. Nevertheless, they can be more expensive—but also tend to be worth your money long-term (less expensive dental procedures).
How to Correctly Fit a Mouthguard
If a mouthguard doesn’t fit your child properly, it will hardly offer them any protection. Therefore, it is essential that, as a parent, you ensure that your child’s mouthguard is a good fit and won’t fall out during their big game, event, or competition. The first major sign that your child’s mouthguard fits right is that they are not gagging. If your child is gagging, the mouthguard is probably too large and needs to be trimmed so that it isn’t touching the soft palate.
Second, making sure that the mouthguard is snug and that your child doesn’t need to clench his or her jaw or bite down to keep it in place. If your child is biting or clenching his or her jaw, that means that the mouthguard is too loose and needs to be smaller. Ideally, your child’s mouthguard should fit snuggly on the upper teeth without falling. Lastly, keep in mind that your child’s mouthguard doesn’t need to cover the whole upper jaw, just most of his or her teeth and gums, if possible.
Why Are Mouthguards Important?
Mouthguards act as a miniature cushion to your child’s mouth. If something happens and your child gets a blow to the face, they will be much less likely to receive major damage to their teeth. Furthermore, mouthguards not only protect your child’s teeth, but also their gums, their jaw, and their lips. Paying for a mouthguard will not only save your child from unnecessary discomfort and pain, but it may also save you from having to spend thousands of dollars on oral or cosmetic surgery, as well as any other health problems that may result from broken teeth, damaged gums, a broken jaw, or a damaged face.
When playing high-contact sports, your child is at major risk for injury. Who knows when they might get an elbow to the lip, crash into a tree, fall on their face, or receive a blow to the mouth. As a parent, it is part of your job to protect your child. While you shouldn’t be a “helicopter parent,” good parents are still cautious and ensure that their children are sufficiently safe during their high-risk activities. There is never a need for unnecessary damage that could be avoided through a little preventative care.