The importance of mouth guards in contact sports

A mouth guard is a plastic horseshoe-shaped cover that fits over the teeth and gums, cushioning them and offering adequate protection against sporting injuries to the teeth, jaw, neck and brain. Custom-made mouth guards can also prevent concussions and damage caused by a heavy blow.

Even though you can buy a mouth guard in a store, these are not recommended as they provide a false sense of protection and make it hard to talk or breathe while in place. Custom-fitted mouth guards are made from moulds of your mouth, making it comfortable to wear. Featuring indentations of your lower teeth, mouth guards rest on the biting surface of the teeth safely immobilising the jaw on impact, thus preventing reverberation of the brain.

Mouth guards offer different levels of protection, depending on the sport that you will be participating in. For a sport that does not involve the use of a hard stick or a ball, or where the head is not an intentional target, a slimmer mouth guard may be recommended. However, for high-impact sports, a stronger mouth guard would be necessary.

If you are an athlete who wears braces, your dentist can design a mouth guard around your braces. This will not only protect your teeth, but it will also prevent the soft tissue in your mouth from becoming cut by the wires or brackets of the braces in the effect of an impact to the face.

Mouth guards should be cleaned with cool water after every use, and thoroughly cleaned with a toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash every week. Once cleaned, the mouth guard should be placed in its container to dry. It is also important to note that a mouth guard should not be machine washed, and when it is not placed in your mouth it should be in your protective carrying case at all times.

For advice on the most appropriate sports mouth guard for you, contact a dentist in Cape Town.

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