Common sense dictates that it’s a good idea to wear a mouthguard if you play contact sports or engage in any activity where you could potentially damage your teeth. However, we don’t always do what we know is in our best interest.
There are several reasons why people don’t wear mouthguards. Sometimes people don’t know that the activity that they are engaging in requires a mouthguard. Teenagers may not wear them because there is peer pressure to not wear one. After all, nobody wants to be the only one on their team that wears a mouthguard! Others might complain that a mouthguard is uncomfortable or interferes with their speech and breathing.
However, there are several reasons to wear a mouthguard. I would like to share some of them with you. My goal is not to convince you to wear a mouthguard (or to convince you to make your child to wear a mouthguard) if you are not already. But I do hope that this article will increase your awareness of the implications of wearing or not wearing a mouthguard so that you can make an informed decision.
Six Reasons to Wear a Protective Dental Mouthguard
1. Mouthguards Protect Against Tooth Fractures
One of the most important functions of mouthguards are to keep your teeth from breaking. If your tooth does fracture, it usually can be saved. Here’s a few types of tooth fractures and their respective treatment:
- If it fractures on the crown of the tooth (the part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth), then a dentist can usually put a white filling material on the tooth to replace the fractured portion.
- If the tooth fractures and exposes the dental pulp, then a root canal treatment or pulpotomy (if it is a young person) can be performed followed by a filling to replace the lost tooth structure.
- If the root of the tooth fractures, then the prognosis of the tooth may not be favorable. If the root fractures close to the crown of the tooth, then the tooth may need to be extracted. If the root fractures near the end of the tooth, then the prognosis is more favorable.
2. Mouthguards Protect Against Tooth Displacement
If a baseball hits you hard right in the mouth and you’re not wearing a mouthguard, it could break your tooth. If you’re more fortunate, it may only displace your tooth and cause your tooth to move easily thereafter.
However, if you are wearing a mouthguard when an object hits your mouth, it will cushion your teeth. A mouthguard can also distrubute the force over all of your teeth so that one tooth doesn’t receive a crushing blow.
3. Mouthguards Protect Against Knocking Out a Tooth
Nobody wants to have their tooth get knocked out. It would be a tragedy if someone ended up with a large gap in their smile due to an accident that could have been prevented by wearing a mouthguard.
Fortunately, many permanent teeth that are knocked out can be saved if you know what steps to take when a tooth gets knocked out. If a baby tooth gets knocked out, it could cause trauma to the developing permanent tooth and might require a spacer or space maintainer.
4. Mouthguards Protect Against Soft Tissue Injuries
Today in class, my professor showed a picture of a basketball player who had bit right through her lower lip. She needed stitches to repair the harm. All of this could have been avoided if she had covered up the sharp surfaces of her teeth with a mouthguard. Mouthguards can keep you from injuring your tongue and cheek as well.
5. Mouthguards Might Protect Against Concussions
There is some debate on this issue. Those who say that mouthguards can help prevent concussions rationalize that since there is padding between the mandible and the maxilla, then if you sustain a blow to the mandible, the padding could lessen the force of the mandible pushing up on the skull near the brain, which could cause a concussion.
Although no controlled experimental study has confirmed or refuted the idea that a properly fitted mouthguard reduces the likelihood of sustaining a concussive injury, evidence is mounting that the device could play a significant role in this critical area of player safety.
On the contrary, some neurosurgeons have claimed that mouthguards don’t help in reducing the number of concussions. Dr. Cantu, an expert on concussions has stated the following:
No study that mouth guards prevent concussions has been done. But they do prevent injuries to the teeth so I would recommend all collision-sports players wear mouth guards.
6. Mouthguards Protect Against Jaw Fractures
Mouthguards also protect against jaw fractures. When you sustain a blow to the head and your teeth contact each other, there’s not much room for flexibility. But, if you have a layer of flexible plastic between your teeth, it can act as a padding and save your jaw from fracturing. Jaw fractures often require major surgery (and a steady diet of Jello and soup), so it is likely in your best interest to wear a mouthguard to prevent such an occurrence!
I hope that the importance of wearing a mouthguard is evident as you read through this list. Once you chip off part of your tooth, that part of your tooth is gone forever. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Most reasons people give for not wearing a mouthguard are either related to the inconvenience of wearing a mouthguard (which is pretty minimal) or peer pressure to NOT wear one. However, should an injury to your teeth occur, you will find the consequences not only inconvenient, but they probably will affect your appearance more than wearing a mouthguard would have in the first place.
Do you wear a mouthguard? If you have any tips on how to better wear a mouthguard, or any questions at all, please leave them below in the comments section!