Every summer, kids across Australia take to the field and enjoy their favourite sports.
It can be a lot of fun, but it isn’t without its hazards. Just about every sport carries the risk of oral injury. According to the Australian Dental Association, every year, thousands of kids are treated for injuries to their teeth, and to the soft tissues of their mouths, that could have been avoided if they had been using mouth guards.
Such injuries are totally unnecessary; here’s how to make sure your kids are safe this season:
Why a good mouth guard is important
Impacts from other players, hard falls onto fields and hardwood floors, and the sudden unwelcome appearance of a hockey or tennis ball near the face can chip or break teeth, lacerate the gums, and twist up expensive orthodontic appliances.
Mouth guards absorb the shock of such impacts and greatly reduce the risk of injury. Below is an infographic by DentalAbout highlighting the importance of wearing a mouth guard.
What to look for in a mouth guard
Most oral health professionals advise using a custom made mouth guard. The better the fit of your child’s guard, the more complete its protection will be.
If a customised mouth guard isn’t available, you can buy one off the shelf in a size that’s close to what your child takes. Err on the side of too large, as a soft mouth guard can be trimmed at its back edges to provide a better fit.
Always opt for a soft mouth guard, as these distribute the force of impact more efficiently than rigid plastics and are unlikely to themselves become dangerous projectiles inside the mouth.
How to use the mouth guard properly
After trimming the mouth guard to create a comfortable fit, there are a few extra things you can do to ensure the guard stays in place and does its job.
If the mouth guard you’ve purchased is made of soft polyurethane, try boiling it in water for 30 seconds to soften it. Once you take it out, let it cool just long enough to be put in the mouth, but not long enough for it to harden up again. Have your child bite down on the mouth guard while it’s still soft. After around 30 seconds of firm pressure, the mouth guard should have the distinct impression of your child’s teeth in it. This impression should be permanent and will help to create a firmer fit, as the surface of the guard will exactly match the topography of your child’s teeth.
Always keep mouth guards in rigid containers when not in use and keep the container away from heat sources to prevent warping and softening.
Be sure to clean the guard after every use to prevent the growth of bacteria over its surface. Finally, check the mouth guard at least once a year, and replace it as needed. Be sure to check its fit. Remember, even if the mouth guard is still in good shape, your child’s mouth is still growing and changing shape.
The sporting season is one of the joys of childhood. It isn’t entirely without its perils, though, especially regarding the dental health of the most enthusiastic players.
Make sure your child isn’t one of the thousands who will be treated for dental injuries this year by choosing a quality mouth guard, maintaining it properly, and always using it during contact sports. It’s a small investment with a big return.