March Madness continues and the elbows are flying. To help prevent dental injuries and cuts to the face, lips and inside of the mouth, any athlete playing a collision or contact sport should wear a mouth guard.
There are three main types of mouth guards: stock, boil and bite, and custom.
Stock mouth guards are available at your local drug store, and can be immediately removed from the package and placed in the mouth. Although they’re convenient, they tend to be very bulky and require the child to constantly bite down to hold the mouth guard in place.
A boil-and-bite mouth guard is the most commonly used mouth guard. It’s immersed in boiling water and then formed in the mouth using biting pressure. While these mouth guards are better than the stock versions, they also can be bulky and improperly fitted.
A custom mouth guard offers the best protection, but it’s the most expensive. It’s designed by your child’s dentist and offers the best fit with the least amount of material needed for safety. A custom mouth guard is a must for any player with braces.
Remember, any injury to the mouth needs immediate treatment. Cuts may need stitches, cracked or broken teeth may need cosmetic repairs and teeth that have moved may require repositioning and stabilization. If a tooth is completely knocked from the socket, it’s best to either immediately re-implant the tooth or store it in milk and quickly seek emergency dental treatment. Time is a key factor in most cases of dental injury.
-Kevin Walter, MD, program director, Pediatric and Adolescent Sports Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and Lori Barbeau, DDS, medical director, Children’s Dental Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Learn more about Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin at chw.org.