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Mouthguards and Braces: A guide for protecting your smile

mouthguards and braces during sports, football

As an athlete, you're no stranger to the commitment and dedication required to excel in your chosen sport. However, if you're undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces, you may have concerns about how to protect your teeth and braces during physical activities. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the importance of mouthguards for athletes with braces and provide valuable advice to ensure your winning smile remains intact throughout your sports journey.

Understanding the Risks

Athletes with braces face unique challenges when it comes to protecting their oral health. The combination of intense physical activity and the potential for accidental impacts can increase the risk of dental injuries and damage to orthodontic appliances. It's crucial to be aware of these risks and take proactive steps to minimize them.

The Impact of Sports on Orthodontic Appliances:

Orthodontic appliances, such as braces, are designed to gradually shift and align your teeth. However, unexpected blows or trauma during sports activities can disrupt this process, leading to broken brackets, wires, or even more severe damage to the teeth, lips and gums. Not only does this impact the progress of your orthodontic treatment, but it can also result in additional discomfort and prolonged treatment times.

The Role of Mouthguards:

Mouthguards are a crucial accessory for athletes, especially those with braces. These protective devices create a barrier between the braces, teeth, and soft tissues of the mouth, shielding them from potential injuries. Mouthguards effectively absorb and distribute the force of impacts, reducing the likelihood of dental trauma and minimizing the risk of damage to orthodontic appliances.

Types of Mouthguards:

  1. Stock Mouthguards:

  • Readily available at sports stores.

  • Inexpensive but offer limited customization.

  • Often bulky and less comfortable.

  1. Boil and Bite Mouthguards:

  • Purchased over the counter and can be molded at home.

  • Provides a better fit than stock mouthguards.

  • Offers a degree of customization.

  1. Custom-Made Mouthguards:

  • Professionally crafted by an orthodontist or dentist.

  • Tailored to fit the athlete's teeth and braces.

  • Provides the highest level of protection and comfort.

Choosing the right mouthguard for braces

Custom-made mouthguards have many advantages (see below), but unfortunately they are not the right type of mouthguard for patients DURING orthodontic treatment. The reason is that mouthguards that fit precisely around the teeth will either inhibit tooth movement or simply not fit well once the teeth have shifted to a new position. For this reason, Dr. Bloom recommends a stock mouthguard that is specifically designed to fit over the braces and protect the teeth, gums, lips and braces. Here are a couple examples that Dr. Bloom recommends:

Importance of Custom-Made Mouthguards for Athletes AFTER Braces:

While all mouthguards offer some level of protection, athletes who have completed orthodontic treatment should prioritize custom-made mouthguards for several reasons:

  1. Precise Fit:

  • Custom-made mouthguards are designed to fit snugly over the teeth, ensuring optimal protection.

  • The precise fit minimizes the risk of the mouthguard dislodging during intense physical activity.

  • The custom-fit means it will be easier to speak while playing and easier to breath.

  1. Comfort:

  • The tailored design of custom mouthguards maximizes comfort, reducing irritation and discomfort during wear.

  • Athletes are more likely to consistently use well-fitted mouthguards, ensuring ongoing protection.

  1. Effectiveness:

  • Custom mouthguards provide superior protection against impacts, reducing the likelihood of dental injuries and damage to the soft tissues.

  • Orthodontists and dentists can incorporate additional features, such as extra cushioning, for enhanced protection.

Tips for Athletes with Braces Using Mouthguards:

  1. Consult with Your Orthodontist:

  • Before choosing a mouthguard, consult with your orthodontist to ensure it is compatible with your braces and teeth.

  • Discuss any specific recommendations or features that would enhance the effectiveness of the mouthguard.

  1. Regular Dental Check-ups:

  • Schedule regular dental check-ups to monitor the health of your teeth and braces.

  • Inform your dentist about your sports activities, so they can assess any potential impact on your orthodontic treatment.

  1. Invest in a High-Quality Mouthguard:

  • While some mouthguards may be an investment, the long-term benefits in terms of protection and comfort outweigh the initial cost.

  • Prioritize the well-being of your teeth and braces by choosing the best possible mouthguard for your specific needs.

  1. Proper Maintenance:

  • Clean your mouthguard regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Inspect the mouthguard for any signs of wear or damage and replace it if necessary.

  1. Consistent Use:

  • Wear your mouthguard consistently during all sports activities, even during practices.

  • Consistent use ensures continuous protection and reduces the risk of unexpected injuries.

  1. Emergency Kit:

  • Carry a small emergency kit with orthodontic wax and relevant tools to address any minor issues with braces while on the go.

Protecting your winning smile while participating in sports with braces requires a proactive approach and the right protective gear. Mouthguards play a pivotal role in minimizing the risks associated with dental injuries and damage to orthodontic appliances. By understanding the importance of mouthguards, investing in high-quality options, and following practical tips, athletes can confidently pursue their sports goals without compromising their orthodontic treatment. Remember, a well-protected smile is a winning smile, both on and off the field.

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