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. This is especially an issues when playing sports with braces.
If you wear braces, there’s an additional worry about damage to your orthodontic appliance. This topic comes up often with our patients who play sports at school or in the community. Here at Dunn 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 most effective method for protecting your smile from damage while playing sports. This isn’t limited to high contact sports like football or basketball; we actually recommend patients wear a mouthguard even during warm-ups, or if they play light-contact sports like baseball or volleyball. Elbows can often come out of nowhere, after all, and who among us hasn’t tripped over their own two feet once or twice?
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 thermoplastic, which means they are designed to heat up in the mouth and then mold around the teeth. If you wear 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.
This kind of molding doesn’t allow for movement of your teeth, either, which is what orthodontic treatment is working to achieve! A non-orthodontic mouthguard can actually work against your orthodontic progress in this way. These mouthguards will also need to be replaced more often to keep up with the shifting of your 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 to get your lip caught up in a bracket during a blow or a fall. This can cause swelling, and you may even need help from one of our doctors to release it!
Orthodontic mouthguards are built with this in mind. They protect the brackets on the teeth and soften any hit they may take. To make room for your braces, they are slightly larger than regular mouthguards. However, they are just as comfortable to wear.
There are also mouthguards made specifically for athletes in braces that are available online and over-the-counter in some sporting goods stores. This includes well-known brands like ShockDoctor, Gladiator, and Vettex brands. While these tend to be a bit more expensive than regular mouthguards, we feel the extra cost is worth the additional 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?
If you wear braces and 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 you fail to do so.
If you’re an Invisalign patient, consider taking your aligner out and replacing it with a tight-fitting mouthguard to protect your teeth better when you play. Aligners can fit a little more loosely than a mouthguard because they allow for the shifting of teeth into their correct positions. If aligners are removed, they should always be placed somewhere clean and safe, and put back in as soon as the practice or game is complete.
How to care for an orthodontic mouthguard
Orthodontic mouthguards can last for quite a while if you care for them properly. Bacteria can easily grow on mouthguards, so they should be cleaned every time you take them out. We recommend using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste to gently clean the inner and outer surface. An antimicrobial solution may also 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’re not in use!.
Keep your smile safe with Dunn Orthodontics
Orthodontic mouthguards are the best way to ensure your teeth stay safe even when participating in a sport that can potentially cause injury. That said, life happens, and we understand that damage can still occur. If you do sustain any damage to your mouth, teeth, or braces, we encourage you to call our office as soon as possible so we can assess the situation and figure out the next step.
Dunn Orthodontics is dedicated to doing all we can to help you continue your normal activities as a braces patient, including athletics. To learn more about safely playing sports while wearing braces, get in touch with us and we will be more than happy to discuss an appropriate orthodontic mouthguard for you!Schedule a Free Consultation