With the start of Fall comes sports for kids, and you may be considering a mouthguard for your child. Read on for Dr. Gage’s professional recommendations of mouthguards, and what type of mouthguard is right for your child to ensure their physical safety.
Q: Are mouthguards only for kids who play contact sports like hockey, football, and rugby?
A: Over the years, I have encountered all kinds of athletes that use mouthguards for various reasons. Mouthguards are recommended for use in all sports that could cause injury or risk to the child’s teeth, jaw, or mouth. Traditionally, this list of sports includes lacrosse, football, hockey, boxing, rugby, and martial arts. Sports like biking, baseball, basketball, and innertube water polo (okay, I made that last one up!) can also result in injuries to the face and teeth, so play it safe and have your child wear a mouthguard when engaging in these types of sports, too.
Q: Do mouthguards protect against concussions?
A: Multiple studies have all pointed to the same conclusion: it is very likely that mouthguards do not provide any protection against concussions. Surprising, right? This finding doesn’t mean you should throw out your child’s mouthguard, though. What experts understand is that mouthguards protect the teeth and lips from impact, and may also protect the jaw joint if it is hit during active play.
Q: What types of mouthguards are available, and which do you recommend?
A: There are a few kinds of mouthguards. The first is Stock Mouthguards. Stock mouthguards are easily found in stores, inexpensively purchased, and they provide some protection to the teeth and to the lips. Some thin mouthguards are appropriate for kids with braces or other oral appliances as the teeth are rapidly changing position. Overall, you get what you pay for with this mouthguard, but it may only work best for your child in certain situations when playing sports.
Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards: These mouthguards can be purchased in stores. They are made of plastic that you heat up in hot water, which then allows for the plastic to conform to the shape of the teeth as it cools in the mouth. Some companies use EVA plastic material that molds well around the teeth, but these are high-priced and can be difficult to fit correctly. The advantage of this type of mouthguard is that it provides a fairly good fit at home. It’s like getting a salad at a fast food restaurant: It’s fast and probably the best option in a pinch.
Custom-Fitted Mouthguards: Your dentist or orthodontist can create a mouthguard specifically for your child’s mouth. This type can also be made in various thicknesses depending on the sport (obviously you need an extra thick one for innertube water polo). This type of mouthguard is beneficial as it provides the best fit and protection, and has been reported to be the most comfortable and the easiest to wear. In my own research working with CrossFit athletes, when comparing mouthguard types, custom mouthguards made the athletes feel more explosive and powerful while lifting weights. Similar studies have reported other performance and comfort-related benefits. Now that’s something to chew on! But seriously, don’t chew on your mouthguard.
Q: When is a child old enough to wear a mouthguard?
A: We provide mouthguards for children as young as six years old to provide protection and so that they can establish the good habit from a young age of wearing the proper safety equipment.
Being on call on weekends has made me realize how many sports injuries happen during casual play outside of club games and practices, and has also made me appreciate that good safety habits start young. Could you imagine your child playing football without a helmet? Playing soccer without shin guards? Swimming without goggles? Nope, neither can I. The same goes for mouthguards.
Dr. C. Colby Gage lives in Strathcona Park and is a father of four rambunctious kids, all of whom are innertube water polo champions. Dr. Gage is a Board Certified Orthodontist practicing at Icon Orthodontics in Southwest Calgary. He is a strong advocate for the use of sports mouthguards in the community, and wants to protect the smiles of Calgarians. To book an appointment for a custom mouthguard, call 403-242-4111 or visit iconorthodontics.com.
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