Did you know that nearly 50 percent of all children will suffer some type of injury to the mouth that requires professional intervention? While this number drops off as we reach adulthood, there is little doubt that such traumatic scenarios can still occur from time to time.

Although it is virtually impossible to prevent an unexpected accident, there plenty of ways in which its effects can be dramatically lessened (or even avoided altogether).

One extremely practical method involves the use of a mouthguard and is part of a specialty known as sports dentistry. Your dentist likely has training in sports injury prevention and treatment.

We will first take a quick look at some common injuries to the mouth before discussing how a mouthguard can help to protect the teeth and gums. If you want to learn more about your options -- or you simply hope to safeguard those pearly whites -- this article should provide invaluable insight.

What Types of Injuries to the Mouth Can Occur?

Most of us associate mouthguards with contact sports such as boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA) and rugby. Although this is absolutely true, we need to remember that many physical activities can result in an oral injury.

From losing your balance when jogging in the rain -- to being hit by a pitch during a baseball game -- accidents are simply a part of life.

The injuries can include:

  • Trauma to soft tissues such as the gums or the inner cheeks.
  • Accidentally biting your tongue.
  • Chipped, cracked or even lost teeth.
  • Fractures of the jawbone.

We should note here that a mouthguard may not be able to entirely prevent severe injuries. The main intention is to instead lessen their effects. Let's now look at the different categories of mouthguards and the differences among them.

What Type of Mouthguard is the Most Effective?

There are actually a number of unique mouthguards that can be purchased. Three of the most well-known mouthguard types are:

  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards
  • Custom-fitted appliances
  • Performance-enhancing mouthguards

Some readers might already recognise the boil-and-bite type, as these are generally given to young athletes and/or distributed by schools.

The mouthguard is first heated in boiling water to increase its malleability. The wearer will then firmly bite down so that its shape conforms to his or her mouth as it begins to cool.

While this tends to be the most cost-effective type of mouthguard, most sports dentistry experts feel that it does not provide adequate levels of protection. It is therefore better to obtain a custom-fitted alternative.

Customised mouthguards will adhere to the unique shape of an individual's mouth. This is the first reason why they are much more effective. Secondly, a number of materials are used in their design.

Such a mouthguard generally uses a combination of a soft inner layer augmented by a harder acrylic surface. This provides an additional level of protection against blunt-force trauma, reducing the chances of sustaining an acute injury.

A performance-enhancing mouthguard is not only concerned with protecting the teeth and gums. They also intend to align the jaw in a specific manner – to improve endurance, speed and even strength.

This type of mouthguard can sometimes be referred to as mandibular orthopaedic repositioning appliances (MORAs) within medical circles. While highly effective, one potential drawback involves the relatively high price tag associated with this mouthguard. Athletes who hope to enhance their performance could nonetheless opt for such a device.

What Services Can a Sports Dentist Provide?

Let's now imagine that you have recently suffered an oral injury. While a standard dentist could very well provide targeted solutions, more complex matters might require a degree of expertise that only sports dentistry can provide.

The main point here is that a sports dentist will be intrinsically familiar with oral mechanics as well as how to address a specific injury, especially one that has caused a significant amount of trauma.

These experts are also capable of recommending the best type of mouthguard based on your requirements as well as explaining how each variant functions.

There are even instances when a sports dentist may be recommended if you happen to be suffering from chronic oral conditions such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

How Will a Sports Dentist Treat an Injury to Your Mouth?

In principle, treating any injury resulting from trauma is not entirely different from addressing relatively common issues such as a severe tongue bite or a cracked tooth.

One major difference may still involve the associated time frame. For example, an athlete might require a temporary appliance such as a bridge in order to be able to compete in an upcoming event.

He or she will be provided with a more permanent solution at a later date. Sports dentists may therefore be required to produce short-term solutions as opposed to a one-off "fix".

The Power of Prevention

No one ever expects to suffer from an injury to the mouth, gums or teeth. Unfortunately, these can and will occur on occasion. Even minor accidents must therefore be evaluated by a trained professional.

The use of a high-quality mouthguard is also an excellent way to reduce the effects of such an injury and in many cases, to prevent any damage that would occur.

Whether you enjoy playing a contact sport or you are simply looking for an effective way to safeguard your smile, it is always wise to speak with a professional about mouthguards. You can then choose the most appropriate option.


1. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/mouth-and-dental-injuries-in-children-beyond-the-basics/print
2. https://www.yourdentistryguide.com/sports-dentistry/