Your orthodontist has recommended braces and you only have one concern: What about your sports? Can you still play or do you have to give that up for now?
Those are natural–and important–questions for athletes of all ages. You know that accidents happen during sports, so how is this handled if the athlete wears an orthodontic device like braces or clear aligners?
Good news! Orthodontic treatment won’t take you off the field of play. You will have to protect your mouth properly, though. The American Dental Association (ADA) tells us that athletes who use a braces mouthguard are 82% less likely to injure their teeth or face while competing in their sport.
In this article, we break down exactly why they are so important and give you all the information you need to choose the best mouthguard to protect you as you play your sport.
Why an Orthodontic Mouthguard is So Important During Sports
There is no doubt that most athletes see their sport as more than “play.” You participate at full speed ahead and with a great deal of competitiveness. This means you accept that injuries are part of the game. Now, even if you wear braces or Invisalign clear aligners, you can continue your level of play while still protecting your mouth from trauma with the use of an orthodontic mouthguard.
Orthodontic mouthguards are designed with the flexibility to absorb the shock of direct hits to the face. This not only protects your lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and teeth, but it also protects your brain from trauma.
Without using the mouthguard with braces, any injury to the face is painful and can result in serious damage. If you get traditional metal braces or clear braces, a blow to the mouth will cut into the soft tissues and can break teeth. In addition to the pain, it can add more time and cost to your orthodontic treatment plan.
An orthodontic mouthguard is specially made to protect your braces with soft silicone and accommodates the movement of your teeth in your mouth during your active orthodontic treatment.
If you choose clear aligners instead of traditional braces, you will still need a mouthguard because the aligners alone will not protect you from an impact on your face. With aligners, you must remove them and insert your custom-made mouthguard whenever you play sports.
So, if you have braces or clear aligners, you can still play your sport. But, the next question to tackle is choosing the right mouthguard.
Types of Mouthguards For Athletes To Consider
Whatever mouthguard you choose, it has to prevent injury to your mouth as well as prevent damage to your braces. So, what are the choices?
There are two types of mouthguards for athletes to consider: standard mouthguards and orthodontic mouthguards.
As you research mouthguards, you will find that there are what are referred to as “standard mouthguards”. These are available online, in pharmacies, and in sporting goods stores. The sizing is basically a one-size-fits-all approach within general ranges of small to large. But, with these, there is no accommodation for braces. Because of the sizing, orthodontists don’t recommend them for anyone with braces.
In addition, the mouthguard is hard plastic with no flexibility. This means the mouthguard can’t adjust to the athlete’s teeth as they change during their orthodontic treatment with braces. Just as importantly, though, a standard mouthguard won’t protect you from an impact while you are playing your sport.
The hard, rigid plastic allows the full impact to reach your braces, which then affects your teeth and facial bones. It’s painful and you stand the chance of serious damage to your braces and your teeth. For all these reasons, the standard mouthguard is useless in protecting your braces and your mouth.
Athletes with traditional braces should have a custom-made orthodontic mouthguard. This mouthguard will accommodate the movement of the teeth during treatment and protect your braces and teeth during sports play.
An orthodontic mouthguard is made from a softer silicone that accomplishes its purpose better than the hard plastic of the standard mouthguard. It is flexible and can absorb the energy of a direct hit to the face. Not only will the soft tissues of the mouth, cheeks, tongue, and gums be safer but your brain will be more protected as well.
Remember, though, that if you wear clear aligners instead of traditional braces, the aligner will not offer this protection. While playing sports, the aligners must be removed, stored in the case provided, and replaced with the orthodontic mouthguard.
If you are an athlete and have braces, it’s important to choose the right mouthguard. And then once you have the mouthguard, it’s critical to care for it correctly so it can do its job.
How To Care For Your Mouthguard
Caring for the mouthguard is important, too. You want it to last for the duration of your treatment with braces. And your orthodontist won’t want you playing your sport without a mouthguard, so keep it in good condition and store it safely so it isn’t lost!
Here’s how to accomplish that:
Clean It Regularly
Regularly use a soft-bristled toothbrush and water to gently brush your mouthguard. Don’t use toothpaste, since some of the abrasive ingredients can damage the mouthguard’s plastic. For more thorough cleaning, put it in water with a capful of antiseptic mouthwash and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse, let it dry, then store it in its case.
Use the provided case when the mouthguard isn’t in your mouth. Also, make sure to keep the mouthguard away from heat and out of direct sunlight to prevent it from warping.
Replace It ASAP If Needed
If you lose your mouthguard or it is damaged, contact your orthodontist right away for a replacement. It is easy to forget it until you need it, so make arrangements for the replacement right away.
A mouthguard that is well-taken care of should last six months or so. They tend to lose their thickness over time, which means your teeth, face, and brain are more susceptible to injury. After six months, ask your orthodontist to determine if it needs to be replaced.
Emergencies do happen, no matter how everyone tries to prevent them. So if you get hit in the face and aren’t sure about the damage, call your orthodontist right away and ask for their input. They may want you to come in so they can assess if any serious damage has occurred to either your teeth or the mouthguard.
Your Braces and Your Sports Both Matter!
Both are important to you so here at Swiatek Orthodontics, they are important to us, too! Orthodontic mouthguards are made to protect your braces as well as your teeth and jaw during sports play.
Your team here at Swiatek is ready to help you choose the best mouthguard for you, instruct you on its care, and order replacements when needed. Together, we can keep you–and your braces!–safely on the field of play.
Contact us today to find out about getting your orthodontic mouthguard.