Health & Safety

July 27, 2012

Mouth guard may save pearly whites

It’s all fun and games until someone gets a tooth knocked out

by Senior Airman Phylicia Rosander and Master Sgt. Christine Rodriguez
56th Dental Squadron

The Tooth Fairy loves to visit at night and leave money in exchange for teeth that have fallen out, right?

But, you wouldn’t want her to visit uninvited just because that hockey stick blind-sided you in the face at yesterday’s game. Now you’re two teeth shy of a perfect grill (smile) because you chose not to wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth.

Many think mouth guards should only be worn when participating in contact sports like football and boxing; however, even those engaging in noncontact sports such as gymnastics and baseball could benefit greatly from wearing one. Mouth guards cushion blows that could potentially cause broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw.

There are three types of mouth guards available — ready-made stock, boil-and-bite and custom-made. Knowing how to choose the right one is important to ensure the best fit. And, taking care of it will help keep it fitting properly and in good condition.

A ready-made stock device is preformed and ready to wear. It’s the least expensive, but the downside is that it can be uncomfortable. A boil-and-bite model is just as it sounds. It is softened by boiling, and then molded to fit the teeth by biting down while still warm. An advantage of this type is that it can be reheated and refitted to get the most comfortable fit. Both can be bought at most sporting goods stores.

The custom-made mouth guard is the most expensive but provides the best comfort and protection. It’s made by a dentist making an impression of the upper teeth from which a stone cast is made. Soft material is heated, formed over the cast, cooled, trimmed and polished into the final product. This can be made at the base dental clinic.

To produce the best protection, a mouth appliance should be resilient, tear-resistant and fit properly. It should be easy to clean and not restrict speech or breathing.

According to the American Dental Association, a few questions to ask are: Is your dentition changing? Do you still have primary teeth? Are you waiting for permanent teeth? What sport are you playing? At what level? Are you tossing the ball around with friends or will you be playing in a competitive league? Have you had any special dental treatment such as placement of crowns or braces that might require additional protection? The family dentist is a good resource to help in choosing the right appliance.

Once it’s been chosen, learning how to care for it will help keep it in good condition. Before and after each use, rinse it with cool water or a mouth rinse. It can also be brushed with a toothbrush and toothpaste. It should be stored and transported in a sturdy container that has vents to allow air circulation. Keep it from losing shape by not exposing it to high temperatures.

Avoid chewing or cutting pieces off the mouth guard. Check it regularly for tears or holes and ensure it still fits correctly. This kind of wear can irritate gums, lips or cheek linings and have the dentist check it to ensure it still fits properly and is in good condition.

Those who play sports, including recreational activities, will benefit from wearing a mouth guard. Active-duty members can have a custom-made mouth guard made at no cost at the Luke Dental Clinic. Mouth-formed mouth guards are also available for beneficiaries.

To schedule an appointment or for more information, call the dental clinic at (623) 856-7535.

 




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