Each year approximately 10,000 primary school children in Ireland damage one or more of their front permanent teeth. The extent of the damage can range from a chip to a front tooth, to fracture of the root of the tooth and in some cases, a tooth knocked out completely.
The cost of treatment can be substantial for the initial emergency visit and for the follow up long-term care that is eventually required in most cases. Most chip fractures are treated with tooth coloured fillings initially but eventually a crown or veneer may be required. In more complicated cases a root treatment, a bridge, an implant or even orthodontic treatment may be required to correct the damage caused by a sports injury. This treatment can take several years and cost several thousand euro. All of this could be prevented in the first place if mouth guards were worn when playing contact sports.
These can be bought in most sports stores. Unfortunately, these mouthguards can fit badly and be uncomfortable to wear because of their bulkiness. They can fall out or even cause choking. Also, the material is at its thinnest where it is needed most.
These provide the highest level of protection. A randomised controlled trial in Australia concluded that there was a significant protective effect of custom made mouthguards relative to all other types of mouth protectors. This effect was enhanced when custom made mouthguards were worn during both practice and play sessions.
Custom fitted mouthguards are constructed and fitted to the shape of the mouth. The essential difference between this and other varieties is that the guard is constructed on a model replica of the teeth made by a dental professional. This results in a mouth guard that is comfortable and fits more snugly on the teeth. Because of the better fit, breathing and swallowing are easier and speech is less affected. Because of the laboratory construction technique a minimum of 4mm thickness is guaranteed enabling the redistribution of forces when there is an impact or trauma to the face. These mouth guards are more expensive because of the additional steps taken during construction. However, this additional expense is more than compensated for by the additional advantages and effectiveness associated with wearing this type of mouthguard.
Your orthodontist will advise on the correct type of mouthguard for people wearing braces while playing contact sports. Separate upper and lower custom made mouthguards may be required.
Depending on your age, your mouthguard may need replacing fairly regularly. If you are still growing, new teeth will come through and move into position. So the mouthguard may become too tight or loose, and will need to be remade to fit the new shape of your mouth.
Adults may not need to have their mouthguards replaced quite so often. But they are like any other form of sports equipment and will suffer from wear and tear.
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