In the United States, approximately 5 million teeth a year are knocked out in contact sports. Losing a tooth can have immediate and lifetime implications. First, if the tooth is not handled carefully and replaced immediately it is often lost. Even if replaced quickly, it may discolor, need a root canal or the root may dissolve leading to subsequent loss of the tooth. If a tooth is lost and needs to be replaced it will cost $ 3,000 to $5,000 (or more) for a dental implant (often the best option). It is universally recommended by the dental profession that mouthguards be worn for all contact sports, as they can prevent or lessen dental trauma and can reduce the incidence of concussions. Personally, I wear a mouthguard for all up, down and outs and for all randoris. It has saved my teeth on more than one occasion.
What types of mouthguards are there?
There are three types of mouthguards: 1. The stock mouthguard – this is preformed, and you simply wear it over your teeth. Often these do not fit well and may interfere with breathing. 2. Boil and bite mouthguards – these are preformed, you place them in boiling water and then bite into them making a better fitting mouthguard. They are very common but sometimes they are bulky or restrict air flow. 3. Custom fitted mouthguards – these are made by your dentist. A mold of your teeth is made, and the mouthguard is formed over this.
Which mouthguard should I purchase?
Certainly, a mouthguard custom made by your dentist is ideal. It will fit the best and have the best airflow. It is, however, the most expensive option. A good alternative and the mouthguard most commonly used in Jiu Jitsu is the “boil and bite” mouthguard. There are multiple makers of these; they come in multiple designs and multiple colors and offer varying degrees of protection. Most have thermoplastic material that is moldable after being heated. Some have this thermoplastic material inside a hard-plastic exoskeleton for more protection. Go online and various retailers will offer you a plethora of options. I searched Amazon and they offered over 200 different mouthguards. The best one is the one that you actually wear and wear consistently. Personally, I am happy with clear thermoplastic material that is molded to my teeth.
Any hints on making a “boil and bite” mouthguard?
The most important thing is to read the directions carefully. The thermoplastic materials need to be boiled a specific time and the instructions will tell you those times exactly. Experiment with some inexpensive clear mouthguards before making a very expensive one.
How do I care for my mouthguard?
Most come with a plastic container. Use it! Also rinse before and after each use. Clean regularly with any common dental appliance cleaner.
In summary, be proactive. Buy a mouthguard and wear it! Your teeth and your checkbook will be happy you did.
Author: Doug Carver is a retired Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon who has been training at Easton Arvada for the past three years.