Due to the tireless efforts by Australian sports and dental groups to raise public awareness about the risks of oral injury in contact sports, mouthguards have become an essential safeguard against oral injury for today’s young athletes – at training and when playing a game.
Mouthguards can help prevent or reduce the risk of the following injuries:
- Knocked-out teeth
- Chipped, fractured or broken teeth
- Dislodged (or extruded) teeth
- Soft tissue injuries
How safe and effective are store bought mouthguards?
According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), along with the increase in public awareness, has come a flood of cheap “boil-and-bite” mouthguards on the market. You can buy these mouthguards over the counter at almost every sports store or pharmacy for as little as $4.99. However, despite safety claims from manufacturers, they may actually cause more harm than good.
Why? For starters, moulding and fitting a boil-and-bite mouthguard at home is often problematic. They can be difficult to mould and fit precisely over your uniquely shaped set of teeth. Consequently, the mouthguard may end up moving around in the mouth when worn. It would be a bit like wearing a loosely strapped on helmet.
A poor fit compromises the function, effectiveness and safety of the mouthguard by reducing its ability to absorb impact forces. A poor fit also makes the mouthguard uncomfortable and distracting to wear, and may end up being played with – like chewing a piece of gum while playing.
In the event of an impact or blow, if the mouthguard fails, even more damage may result. For example, a dislodged mouthguard may wedge in the back of the throat or restrict breathing.
The potential damage
A case in point was the trauma suffered by W.A. hockey player, Christina Johnson, in late 2015 that made the headlines nationwide. The “boil-and-bite” mouthguard that she was wearing and had bought from a chemist proved ineffective, when she sustained a blow to her mouth from a hockey stick during a game.
As a result of her severe oral injuries, Christina endured intensive reconstructive surgery, root canal therapy and orthodontic treatment to the tune of $8000 at the time – all because she chose the cheaper option.
Custom mouthguards – thicker and made to fit correctly
Custom-fitted mouthguards on the other hand, are designed and made correctly by a dentist. They are moulded from exact impressions taken of your teeth, which take into account the individual shape and contours of your mouth and jaw.
On average, custom mouthguards are twice as thick as store-bought mouthguards since they are usually double-layered. This helps to enhance the cushioning effect of the mouthguard by absorbing and distributing the impact forces of a blow or collision evenly.
A custom mouthguard is professionally fitted, and stays firmly in place when worn which reduces the risk of sports-related oral injury and concussion. They also allow the wearer to speak easier, breathe more freely, and focus more on their game or activity with confidence. Better focus is a virtue in on itself since a potential accident or injury may be avoided when you’re able to concentrate 100% on the game.
Custom mouthguards made by your dentist can range in price from $120 – $200 depending on what options you require (e.g. team colours, name embossed & special designs).
That’s a lot more than a $4.99 “boil-and-bite” mouthguard, but when you consider the benefits of providing your child with maximum protection on the playing field, it’s a relatively small investment in their health and well-being. In the long term, you may also be avoiding very expensive dental or medical fees, by reducing the risk of oral or head injury to your child.
If your family has private health insurance with extras cover, check out item #151 – Dentist-fitted sports mouthguards on your policy. Most health funds will cover your dentist’s fees up to their set maximum benefit. This should cover most, if not all, of the cost of a regular custom mouthguard. You should also be able to claim for a 2nd mouthguard within the same policy year with a slightly reduced rebate.
How long do custom mouthguards last?
They last a lot longer than over-the-counter bought mouthguards. That said, your child will need to have their mouthguard replaced (regardless of make) annually, since their teeth and jaw continue to develop until the ages of 16 and 18 years. It’s similar to buying new school uniforms and shoes each year as your child clothing sizes changes.
Regular checks and adjustments to the fit of your child’s custom mouthguards are essential – especially if your child’s teeth and gums change at any time during a single sports season.
Contact us for more information
At Healthy Smile Dental, we ensure that your child receives the maximum protection possible throughout their school sporting years with our custom-fitted mouthguards.
Feel free to contact our friendly team for more information on 3219 9806 (Underwood) or 3273 3220 (Calamvale) during business hours.