With the weather warming up, it won’t be long before it’s time for summer sports! Fall ball won’t be too far behind, so this is the perfect time to talk about how to keep your smile safe when you’re on the field or court.
Here at Moffett & Walley Orthodontics, we work with many patients who are also athletes. They often worry that treatment will leave them sitting on the sidelines, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! You can participate in any sport you usually would, even as an orthodontic patient. You’ll just have to take some extra steps to protect your mouth when you play.
Wearing a mouthguard is by far the easiest way to accomplish that, so let’s look at why you should always keep one in your sports bag!
What is a mouthguard? How do they work?
It takes a surprisingly small amount of pressure on your braces to irritate your gums or cheeks. A mouthguard will help prevent damage, whether you’re practicing or in the middle of a big game! These appliances are easy to find, very affordable, and highly cost-effective. They come in regular and orthodontic models, both of which we’ll outline here.
While regular mouthguards do provide some measure of protection, they’re made from a thermoplastic material that heats up in your mouth and molds to the teeth and brackets. This molding doesn’t move with the teeth as they shift towards their new positions, which can work against the straightening process. Over time, this can lead to extra appointments or longer treatment times for some patients.
If you’re a braces patient who also plays sports, an orthodontic mouthguard is likely to be your best option. They’re designed specifically for orthodontic patients and fit comfortably over braces. Because these mouthguards use a high-grade silicone material instead of thermoplastic, they cushion the lips and prevent them from bumping against your teeth and braces.
Who benefits from a mouthguard?
Anyone who plays any sport can benefit from a mouthguard! Dental injuries are incredibly common, but most can be prevented with the use of a mouthguard. For this reason, we recommend patients wear them when participating in any competitive and recreational sports. This is especially important for those where impact, contact, or collisions are likely to occur.
What are the different types of mouthguards?
There are typically three types of mouthguards. These vary in terms of cost, comfort, and protection levels. Here’s what you can expect from each!
Stock mouthguards are ready-made and don’t require a visit to your dentist or orthodontist. They’re affordable and can be found in most sporting goods stores, but they come in a limited range of sizes and require the mouth to be shut to keep them in place. Since they’re not customized to the patient’s mouth, these mouthguards can be less effective than some other models.
This type of mouthguard softens when placed in hot water. Once it’s cooled down, you put it in your mouth, where it’s further shaped by bite pressure. This is a more personalized option that can be particularly useful to patients who wear braces! They’re generally designed to be used at home, so you can purchase them at many sports stores. We can help you with a final molding if needed.
Custom mouthguards are available in most dental and orthodontic offices. We create these appliances using impressions of your mouth, as this allows us to provide the best and most comfortable fit possible. This option does cost a bit more than the others and will require a visit to our office to make them, but you can’t beat them when it comes to protecting your mouth no matter the sport!
Whatever type of mouthguard you choose, it should fit comfortably and securely, be easy to clean, and have high-impact energy absorption. Your mouthguard should never restrict your breathing in any way.
What if there’s an orthodontic emergency?
As effective as mouthguards can be, accidents can still happen. While true orthodontic emergencies are rare, they do occur from time to time. These include any:
- serious injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, or gums
- swelling, infection, or bleeding of the gums or mouth
- severe pain or discomfort in your teeth, mouth, face, or neck
If your mouth takes a direct hit while playing sports, let us know as soon as possible! Depending on the circumstances, we may recommend an emergency appointment with Dr. Moffett or Dr. Walley. Don’t hesitate to visit an urgent care clinic or emergency room if you feel that’s your best option, though! Some patients worry that their orthodontic process will be interrupted or delayed by emergency treatment, but we can always pick up where we left off or adjust your treatment plan once the emergency has passed.
Protect your smile with help from Moffett & Walley Orthodontics
Even minor emergencies can be upsetting, which is why we encourage all of our patients to wear a mouthguard when playing sports! We’re happy to support you in all your athletic endeavors and want to help you continue doing all the things you love while we straighten your teeth. That includes all your favorite sports! If you have any questions about protecting your smile during the treatment process, get in touch any time and we’ll be happy to talk you through it.