Does My Child Need a Mouthguard to Play Sports?
As a dentist who works with patients of all ages, I get lots of questions from parents about how to protect their children’s teeth. I’ve written about when children should start brushing, but today I’d like to talk about the dental health of older children-- specifically those who enjoy playing sports!
Playing a sport at school or as part of a local recreational team can be great fun, build leadership and teamwork skills, and help kids stay healthy and active! But sports, especially contact sports, are a common cause of chipped and broken teeth. In today’s post, we’ll look at one of the best ways to protect a child’s teeth: a sports mouthguard.
Let’s get started!
When Should Children Wear a Mouthguard?
Any child that plays a contact sport should consider wearing a mouthguard. Many leagues and schools will require a mouthguard for boys who play ice hockey or tackle football, but as a Harrisonburg dentist, I see chipped and broken teeth result from injuries in a variety of contact sports including:
Soccer & Basketball - Flying elbows are the most common cause of mouth and tooth injuries in these sports
Lacrosse & Baseball - These sports use very hard, fast-moving balls that can do serious damage to a child’s teeth. Plus hard contact between players in these sports can cause injuries, too.
Ice Skating & Skateboarding - While not “contact” sports, accidental falls often result in chipped or broken teeth
Remember: Girls who play sports need to protect their teeth, too! Sports mouthguards aren’t just for boys! And here’s something you might not know:
Only 3% of the 3 million female high school athletes in America are cheerleaders, but nearly 65% of serious injuries (including those to the teeth and mouth) are the result of cheerleading.
So no matter what sport your child plays, if there’s a chance of damage to their teeth, they should be wearing a mouthguard!
Do I Really Need to Protect Baby Teeth?
Many people think that because a child only has their “baby teeth” that it’s not a big deal if one gets knocked out or damaged. This isn’t the case. Trauma to a baby tooth can injure the surrounding bone supporting the tooth, or even the developing permanent tooth. And baby teeth that are knocked out before the adult teeth are ready to come in can lead to problems with the alignment and spacing of the teeth in the mouth.
So if your kiddo still has his or her baby teeth, don’t take them for granted. Protect them with a sports mouthguard!
Do Sports Mouthguards Protect Against Concussions, Too?
With all the talk about football players suffering from concussions, this is a common question. The answer, unfortunately is that there’s just not enough evidence to say that any sports mouthguard helps to prevent brain injuries like concussions. There is some research being done, however, and the early results are promising!
How Should You Care For a Sports Mouthguard?
A custom-made sports mouthguard doesn’t require a lot of care. Rinsing it with warm water and liquid soap each day is the best way to make sure it stays clean and lasts as long as possible. Make sure to rinse away all the soap and pat it dry with a towel before storing it in its case.
Should My Child Brush Before Wearing a Mouthguard?
Yes! It’s a good idea to only wear a sports mouthguard over clean teeth. Otherwise, cavity-causing bacteria can be trapped against the surface of the teeth and gums by the mouthguard. Usually, our saliva will “wash away” bacteria throughout the day, but when a mouthguard is worn, that bacteria stays in place and can increase your child’s risk of cavities!
How Long Does a Mouthguard Last?
A child’s sports mouthguard will need to be replaced whenever your child loses enough baby teeth that the guard no longer fits well, or if your child goes through a growth spurt. Otherwise, the mouthguard just won’t fit properly and won’t protect your child’s teeth effectively. A sports mouthguard may also need to be replaced if it gets damaged or worn out.
If your child does wear a sports mouthguard, bring it with you to every dental checkup. Your dentist can take a quick look and let you know if it needs to be replaced.
Does Insurance Cover a Sports Mouthguard?
Sometimes but not always. But the cost of a mouthguard will always be lower than the cost of repairing chipped or broken teeth. Plus if your child already has all of his or her adult teeth, it’s incredibly important to protect them and make sure those permanent teeth stay healthy for as long as possible.
Ask your dentist, or contact your insurance company to find out how much you can expect to pay for a custom-made sports mouthguard (which will always fit better, be more comfortable, and protect teeth better than an over-the-counter one-size-fits-all mouthguard).
Do Adults Need Mouthguards, too?
While fewer adults play contact sports than kids, many adults do need a dental mouthguard-- albeit for a different purpose. Millions of adults grind their teeth in their sleep, a condition known as bruxism.
Bruxism is one of many causes of worn and chipped teeth, as well as other symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia. The worst part about bruxism is that it’s hard to diagnose. Unless your partner mentions that you grind your teeth in your sleep, you may not realize it’s happening! If your dentist notices wear on your teeth, if you have broken a tooth (and it wasn’t due to decay or trauma), or if wake up with a tense, sore jaw, or often have headaches in the morning, you might be grinding your teeth.
The good news is that a well-made mouthguard that fits your teeth can easily protect your teeth while you sleep! If you’re worried about bruxism, or you suspect that you might be grinding your teeth at night, talk to your dentist at your next checkup.
Ask Your Dentist!
If your child is playing a contact sport, ask your dentist about having a mouthguard made for them. If you’re in the Harrisonburg area contact us to make your appointment today. I’ll answer your questions and help you understand if a mouthguard is right for you.