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Protect Your Child’s Teeth During Sports With a Mouth Guard

Mouth guards are a simple way to help children playing organized sports to dramatically decrease their risk of mouth injuries, including knocked-out teeth. Yet most kids who play sports don’t wear them. A recent survey by the American Academy of Orthodontists found 84% of children do not wear mouth guards when playing organized sports, because they aren’t required to do so.

A mouth guard covers the upper teeth, and protects the teeth, gums and jaw. It reduces the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth. It holds teeth in place, while allowing for normal speech and breathing. If your child plays organized sports, ask your dentist to recommend the best mouth guard for their particular activity. During National Facial Protection Month in April, the American Dental Association urges parents to outfit their children with mouth guards if they play any sport that involves the risk of injury, including football, hockey, basketball and volleyball.

Team sports aren’t the only activities that pose a risk to the mouth. Dental professionals also encourage use of mouth guards during recreational activities such as skateboarding and rollerblading. They note that a mouth guard is considerably less expensive than repairing a mouth injury. If your child wears braces, a mouth guard forms a barrier between the braces and the cheek or lips.

Dentists can make a customized mouth guard, which provides the best fit. You can also buy a boil-and-bite mouth guard, which is softened in boiling water to fit the mouth, or a stock mouth guard, which is ready to wear, but these products often don’t fit as well.

Tips for caring for your mouth guard:

• Before and after using it, rinse it with cold water or antiseptic mouth rinse, or clean it with a toothbrush and toothpaste.

• When you’re not using it, place the mouth guard in a firm, perforated container to protect it and to permit air circulation.

• Have regular dental checkups and bring your mouth guard along so the dentist can make sure it is still in good condition.

New York Emergency Medicine Physician, Mark Papish, MD, FAAEM is Assistant Director of Emergency Medicine Services at Nyack Hospital.