Did you know that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body? It’s even stronger than bone! As strong as our teeth may be, however, they aren’t invincible. While every other type of tissue in our bodies is able to heal itself, our teeth can’t do that. This means that any time our teeth are damaged, they require the attention of a trained dentist or orthodontist to repair them. These damages can be unsightly, but they can also cause oral health issues that are costly to repair. When you’re playing sports with braces there can be an added worry as to how you can protect your teeth.
The topic of playing sports with braces comes up often with our patients who play on their school teams or in their communities. Here at Brodsky Orthodontics, we encourage all of our patients who intend to play sports to invest in an orthodontic mouthguard. They’re the absolute best way to protect your teeth, gums, and braces when you’re on the court or field! Some patients also choose to use a standard mouthguard, which also provides some level of protection for your mouth and appliances.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of mouthguards, when they should be worn, and how to best care for the one you choose!
Regular mouthguard vs. orthodontic mouthguard
Mouthguards are the easiest and most effective way to protect your smile while participating in sports and other physical activities. Whether you participate in high contact sports like football or basketball or lower-contact sports such as baseball and volleyball, we encourage you to wear a mouthguard. You should even wear it during warm-ups.
While both standard and orthodontic mouthguards provide protection for patients wearing braces, there are some subtle differences to be aware of. Regular mouthguards are made from thermoplastic, which means they are designed to heat up in the mouth and then mold to fit snugly around the teeth. If you’re wearing 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 your treatment time and more orthodontic visits.
This kind of molding also doesn’t allow for movement of your teeth. Since this is what orthodontic treatment is designed to achieve, a non-orthodontic mouthguard can work against the straightening 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 course of your treatment.
Orthodontic mouthguards are designed differently. The material they’re made of 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 in a bracket during a blow or a fall. This can cause swelling, and may even require help from one of our doctors to release it!
Orthodontic mouthguards are designed specifically with the needs of a braces patient in mind. They protect the brackets and soften any hit they may take. These mouthguards are slightly bulkier than standard models in order to allow adequate room for your brackets, however, they are just as comfortable to wear.
There are also a variety of over-the-counter mouthguards that were created specifically for athletes in braces. These are often available online, in some sporting goods stores, as well as at our front desk and include well-known brands like ShockDoctor, Gladiator, and Sisuguard. Although these can be a bit more expensive than regular mouthguards, we feel the extra investment is worth the additional comfort and protection they provide. And while nothing can beat a customized orthodontic mouthguard, we would recommend these over standard mouthguard models (and a regular mouthguard over nothing at all!)
When should mouthguards be worn?
If you wear braces and plan to play a contact sport, a mouthguard should be worn at all times. That includes when you’re warming up, during practice, and throughout the game. Injuries can occur at the most unexpected times and are something to avoid at all costs. Our doctors recommend wearing a mouthguard just as frequently with non-contact sports, although obviously the risks are not quite as high if you fail to do so.
If you’re an Invisalign patient, you should consider taking your aligner out and replacing it with a tight-fitting mouthguard to protect your teeth better when you play. Aligners tend to fit a little less snug than a mouthguard since they allow for the shifting of teeth into their correct positions. If aligners are removed, they should always be stored somewhere clean and safe, and put back in as soon as the practice or game is complete.
How to care for your orthodontic mouthguard
Orthodontic mouthguards can last a long time if you care for them properly. Bacteria can easily grow on mouthguards, so you will need to always clean yours every time you take it out. The best way to do so is by using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste to gently clean the inner and outer surface. You can also use an antimicrobial solution as a bacteria-killing rinse. For deeper cleaning, you may leave your mouthguard 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.
Brodsky Orthodontics is here to keep your smile safe
There’s no denying that an orthodontic mouthguard is the best way to ensure your teeth, gums, and braces stay safe, even when playing sports. Accidents happen, however, and sometimes damage may be unavoidable. If this happens to you, contact our office right away and one of our doctors will be able to assess the situation and determine your next steps.
Here at Brodsky Orthodontics, we’re committed to helping you have the best possible experience throughout the course of your orthodontic treatment. To learn more about how you can safely continue playing the sports you love while wearing braces, contact our office today. Our team will be happy to help you find the mouthguard that meets your needs!