Did you know that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body? It’s even stronger than bone! But as powerful as our teeth may be, they’re not invincible. While all of the other tissues in our bodies can repair themselves, our teeth don’t have the ability to do so. That means that when they’re damaged, they must be repaired by a skilled dentist or orthodontist. These damages can not only be aesthetically undesirable, but they may cause oral health issues that are costly to repair. If you wear braces, there’s an additional worry about damage to your orthodontic appliance. This topic comes up often with our patients who are worried about playing sports in braces.
Here at Mack Orthodontics, we recommend orthodontic mouthguards for our athletic patients who also wear braces. This is the single best way to keep your mouth, teeth, and braces protected while you’re in action on the court or field! Some patients also opt to use a regular mouthguard instead, which also provides some measure of protection. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two, when mouthguards should be worn, and how to take care of one below!
Regular mouthguard vs. orthodontic mouthguard
Mouthguards are the easiest and most effective method for protecting your smile from damage while playing sports. This isn’t just for high contact sports like football, hockey, or basketball, either. We recommend patients wear a mouthguard even if they play light-contact sports like baseball or volleyball. Elbows can often come out of nowhere!
While both regular and orthodontic mouthguards offer protection for a patient in braces, there are some important differences to be aware of. Regular mouthguards are made from thermoplastic, which means they are designed to heat up in the mouth and then mold around the teeth. If you’re wearing braces, the material will mold around the brackets as well, which can be an issue for a few different reasons. If the molding fits too well around the brackets, the force of a blow can potentially knock the brackets right off the teeth, leading to a potential increase in treatment time and more orthodontic visits.
Additionally, this kind of molding does not allow for movement of the teeth, which is what orthodontic treatment is working to achieve! A non-orthodontic mouthguard can actually work against the patient’s orthodontic progress in this way. These mouthguards will also need to be replaced more often to keep up with the shifting of teeth throughout the treatment process.
Orthodontic mouthguards are made differently. The material is a high-grade silicone that cushions the lips from bumping and rubbing against the teeth. This is an important feature since it can be extremely painful for patients to get a lip caught up in a bracket during a blow or a fall. This can cause swelling, and a patient may even need orthodontic help to release it!
Orthodontic mouthguards are built with this in mind, so they’re perfect for playing sports in braces. They protect the brackets on the teeth and soften any hit they may take. To make room for the patient’s braces, they are slightly larger than regular mouthguards. However, they are just as comfortable to wear.
There are mouthguards made specifically for athletes in braces available online and over-the-counter in some sporting goods stores, such as the ShockDoctor, Gladiator, and Vettex brands. While these tend to be a bit pricier than regular mouthguards, it is worth the extra cost for the comfort and protection they provide. While nothing can beat a customized orthodontic mouthguard, we would recommend these over the regular mouthguards, and a regular mouthguard over nothing at all!
When should mouthguards be worn?
For Mack Orthodontics patients in braces who play a contact sport, a mouthguard should be worn at all times. That includes warming up, during practice, and throughout the game. Injuries can occur in the simplest of ways and are something to avoid at all costs. We recommended wearing a mouthguard just as frequently with non-contact sports, although obviously the risks are not as high if a patient fails to do so.
How to care for an orthodontic mouthguard
It is very important to care for orthodontic mouthguards properly so that they last. Bacteria can easily grow on mouthguards, so they should be cleaned every time they are taken out. We recommend using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste to gently clean the inner and outer surface. An antimicrobial solution may be used as a bacteria-killing rinse. For deep cleaning, the mouthguard can be left to soak overnight in a glass of water with a denture cleaner tablet. Mouthguards should always be kept in a case when they are not in use.
Mack Orthodontics is invested in keeping smiles safe
While orthodontic mouthguards are the best way to ensure teeth stay safe even when participating in a sport that can potentially cause injury, we understand that damage can still occur. If you sustain damage to your mouth, teeth, or braces, we recommend calling our office as soon as possible so we can assess the situation and figure out the next step.
At Mack Orthodontics, we do all we can to help our patients in braces continue their normal activities, including athletics. To learn more about safely playing sports in braces, get in touch with us today and we will be more than happy to discuss an appropriate orthodontic mouthguard!