How to Protect Your Child’s Teeth With a Mouthguard

Does your child favor a particular sport? Say, football, basketball, or maybe even soccer? It’s always exciting when they find a hobby they’re passionate about—especially one that keeps them active.

Yet, this means your young athlete is prone to one thing in particular—injuries to their teeth. In fact, the chances of something happening to their pearly whites while on the field are far more common than you’d think. According to the ADA, athletes who don’t wear mouthguards are 60 percent more likely to damage their teeth than those who wear them.

All that to say, it’s no wonder why the ADA encourages parents to consider a mouthguard as being just as essential as any other piece of sports equipment. So, today, we’re here to share everything you need to know about them—from which sports require (and recommend) the use of a mouthguard to the different types of mouthguards, and even the benefits of your child wearing one.

For which sports should my child be wearing a mouthguard?

The consensus would be only for collision or contact sports such as football, ice or field hockey, soccer, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, basketball, lacrosse, rugby, water polo, and rodeo. Yes, these sports generally pose an increased risk of injuries to the mouth. But, your child can experience a dental injury during limited contact activities as well.

Therefore, wearing a mouthguard is also recommended when participating in baseball, softball, horseback riding, gymnastics, volleyball, skateboarding, water skiing, snow skiing, and even specific track and field events such as pole vaulting and high jump.

What are the benefits of my child wearing a mouthguard?

Before diving into the benefits of your child wearing a mouthguard, here’s something to sink your teeth into. A survey conducted by Delta Dental found that of children participating in fall and winter sports, just 60 percent are wearing mouthguards.

And, what’s even more alarming is that, when taking a closer look at mouthguard usage for some higher-impact sports, the survey shows that for football, only 32 percent of U.S. parents report their child wears a mouthguard. Field hockey is at just 14 percent, and lacrosse and ice hockey both at 11 percent, along with volleyball. If you’re interested, the entire survey analysis can be found here.

What’s our reason for sharing these details with you? As soon as you understand the role mouthguards play in injury prevention for your young athlete (especially for ages 7 to 11 when they’re the most vulnerable to sports-related mouth injuries), you have to ask yourself: Why not? Why not promote the use of mouthguards to keep their teeth safe?

To bring in some reinforcements, here are some well-known reasons for your child wearing a mouthguard when playing (and training for) a sport:

  • Reduce the risk of:
    • Concussion
    • Jaw fracture
    • Neck injury
  • Protect against:
    • Chipped or broken teeth
    • Root and bone damage
    • Tooth loss
  • Safeguard against:
    • Cutting and bruising of the lips, tongue, and cheeks
  • Decrease the need for:
    • Investing in costly dental treatments (The cost of replanting a tooth and follow-up dental treatment is estimated to be approximately $5,000. Children who experience a knocked out tooth that is not properly preserved or replanted may face lifetime dental costs of $15,000 to $20,000 per tooth.)
  • Lower the risk of:

Braces getting damaged and the need for a costly repair (Yes, there is such thing as a braces mouthguard!)

I’m convinced. But, I know my child won’t be. How can I get them onboard?

Wearing a mouthguard might not be the coolest thing to do—according to your child. So, it’s obvious they’ll resist your idea at first, just as they did when you advised them to wear a helmet when riding their bike around the neighborhood.

Thus, the best possible way to get them onboard with wearing a mouthguard is to show them photos of their favorite (or popular) sports players wearing one. After all, what child wouldn’t want to emulate what a renowned athlete does so they can improve their game and their safety?

Now, what are my options when it comes to selecting the best mouthguard for them?

You’ve got a few options to choose from. Here are the three types of mouthguards:

 

  • Off the shelf (or stock). These can be purchased at your local drugstore or while browsing your preferred sporting goods store for more gear. The good news is, stock mouthguards tend to be the most inexpensive (think anywhere from $1-$15), and come pre-formed and ready to wear. With that, however, they often don’t fit very well and tend to be a bit bulky, which makes it difficult to breathe and talk when wearing them.
  • Boil and bite. Boil and bite mouthguards can also be purchased at your local drugstore or sporting goods store, and even online. These are first softened in boiling water, then formed and molded to your child’s teeth using the fingers, lips, tongue, and biting pressure. While they may provide a better fit than off the shelf options, they, too, can be bulky. The investment ranges anywhere from $2-$30.
  • Custom-fitted. If you’re going to get a mouthguard to protect your child’s teeth, there’s no better option than getting one that’s custom-fitted through your dentist. Yes, this is the most expensive option of the three (think anywhere from $190-$500). But, you’ll get the greatest fit, comfort, and protection.

 

All it takes is an elbow or kick to your child’s jaw to cause damage to their smile. For that reason, no matter which mouthguard option you decide is right for your child and your family’s budget, know that you’re taking a step in the right direction to shield their teeth.

If you’d like help with selecting a mouthguard that will provide the best protection, be sure to ask us during your child’s next checkup. Or, give us a call today so we can discuss your options! Not all mouthguards are created equal, and we want to be sure we assist you with minimizing any injuries to the greatest extent.

Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.

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