Health & Safety

November 14, 2013

Protect your smile with a mouth guard

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Tech. Sgt. Tamara Harris
355th Medical Group
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sivan Veazie)
Senior Airman Tarell Walker, 355th Medical Group dental laboratory technician, cuts a mouth guard Oct. 24. There are three types of mouth guards: a ready-made (stock) mouth guard, a “boil and bite’ guard and a custom mouth guard that is made by a dentist.

Once again, its fall and that means sports! Whether it’s you, your buddies or your kids out there enjoying some football, soccer or another sport of your choice, it’s always wise to make sure you’re playing safe.

Each year, thousands of athletes suffer sports injuries, with about one third being oral-related. Falls or hits to the face can cause a person to suffer not only tooth-related injuries, but also lips, cheeks and the tongue.

A properly fitted mouth guard is always a good choice for those playing contact sports, but even those who don’t can still benefit. New findings in sports dentistry show that even non-contact sports such as skateboarding, gymnastics, and biking could cause potential injury to the mouth. Many experts recommend that a sports guard be worn for any recreational activity that poses a risk of injury to the mouth.

There are three types of mouth guards: A ready-made (stock) mouth guard, a “boil-and bite” guard and a custom mouth guard that is made by a dentist. All three provide protection, but vary in comfort and cost.

Stock guards provide the least amount of protection and may not be as comfortable, but if you only use it occasionally, this might be the right option. A boil-and-bite offers a little more protection, and since you form it to your mouth, it may be comfortable enough to wear for seasonal activities. Finally, the custom mouth guard offers the most protection and is usually beneficial to athletes who play sports throughout the year.

Either way, a mouth guard should do several things. It should be resilient, easy to clean, resistant to tearing and comfortable to the wearer without hindering breathing or speech.

Usually the guard only needs to cover the upper teeth, but other contact sports such as boxing, may require a lower one as well. Your dentist can suggest the right guard for your needs.

Here are some helpful tips for taking care of your mouth guard:

  • Before first wear and before and after each use, clean it with a soft toothbrush.
  • Every couple uses soak it for about 15 minutes with a gentle cleanser, such as a denture cleanser.
  • When not in use, store in a firm, perforated container to protect and allow it to air out.
  • Check it periodically for tears, holes or a poor fit. A damaged guard can cause tissue trauma and provide inadequate protection.
  • Have your dentist inspect your guard at checkups to make sure it’s in good condition.

The 355th Dental Squadron is here to help. We offer boil-and-bite mouth guards that can be picked up at the front desk in the dental clinic free of charge. By request, active-duty members may receive a custom mouth guard.

Have fun this year and stay safe by protecting your smile with a mouth guard!




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(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Chris Massey)

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