Mouth Guards & Oral-Health Habits for Athletes: How Student Athletes Wearing Braces Can Protect a Winning Smile by Dr. Jamie Reynolds
Another school year brings participation in sports, and for student athletes wearing braces, a winning smile depends on winning oral habits. Those habits begin with mouth guards that provide proper protection of the braces, teeth and jaw. Mouth guards, which help cushion a blow to the face, are mandatory in some sports – such as highly physical endeavors like football and hockey – and an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouth guard, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Getting braces is a big deal and a big investment. It should change how we take care of our teeth for a significant amount of time. And while wearing braces doesn’t have to change a young person’s athletic activity level, it does demand extra attention toward protecting their teeth and their parents’ investment.
There is contact in most sports, high-speed collisions and the unpredictable bounce of the ball. Without proper protection of braces during sports activities, someone can suffer broken appliance pieces and set the process back. They can suffer chipped or broken teeth, concussions and cuts to the tongue and lips. But they’re mostly preventable. Here is the different types of mouth guards and other oral habits that young athletes with braces should embrace:
- Choose the right mouth guard. The ADA reports you can lower the chances of damage to braces almost twofold by wearing the right mouth guard. Any kind of mouth guard is better than none for an athlete wearing braces. Depending on the activity, different mouth guard options may be required to protect your mouth and the appliances being used for your treatment. Over-the-counter mouth guards, like boil-and-bite mouth guards, popular for football, are moldable to individual teeth but don’t fit easily over brackets and wires. Customized mouth guards, often made from high-grade silicone, are smaller and more comfortable than off-the-shelf models. People with braces should choose special mouth guards designed just for orthodontic patients, which allow teeth to move at the same time while offering trauma and concussion protection.
- Properly clean mouth guards. Cleaning mouth guards after use is essential. Bacteria and fungi can gradually colonize in used mouth guards. The simplest way to disinfect is with hydrogen peroxide. Fill a glass with it, let the mouth guard soak a few minutes, then remove and rinse with water. You can also use a non-abrasive toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush on the mouth guard, or antibacterial soap.
- Sideline the sugary sports drinks. Young athletes can lessen their cavity chances by eschewing sugary sports drinks that are popularized in television advertisements. Rehydrate with water. There’s a lot of sugar in some of those drinks.
- Practice dental habits like you do sports. Coaches preach to their players that practice makes perfect, and the same approach should be taken toward daily oral habits. An unhealthy tooth is more likely to be damaged if a sports injury occurs. Keep your smile strong by brushing after every meal for two to three minutes and flossing at least once a day.
Sports are great and healthy for youngsters. Braces shouldn’t impede their enjoyment of sports, but parents should make sure the mouth guard is a constant part of their equipment.
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