I’ve always been perplexed by players who don’t wear mouth guards, and even more perplexed by the adults who don’t stay on their young players to properly wear and maintain their mouth guards. Maybe I’m perplexed because of the mouth guard discipline instilled in me when I was learning kickboxing as a teenager. Rule of the gym was – no mouthguard, no spar, and I wanted to spar so I learned to bring a mouth guard to practice and wear it the right way because it doesn’t matter how good the mouth guard is – it won’t do a darn thing if it isn’t worn correctly.
According to the American Dental Association’s May 27th, 2010 article American Dental Association Says Mouthguard Important Piece of Athletic Gear: “The most effective mouthguard should be resilient, tear-resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable and easy to clean, and not restrict your speech or breathing.” A regular boil-and-bite mouth guard bought from your neighborhood sports supply store will work to reduce facial and dental injuries, but I would encourage players at all levels to go for a fitted mouth guard. I wore an OPRO Mouth Guard during my high school playing days and I never had a more comfortable mouth guard that I could also speak through.
Properly Worn Mouth Guard
The image on the left is a young chid wearing a mouthguard correctly. How do you know that you are wearing the mouthguard correctly? – It fits in your mouth. This should be the easiest piece of equipment to wear correctly besides cleats, but many players wear their mouth guards like the hockey player below.
Improperly Worn Mouth Guard
This is commonly known as the fish hook, and wearing your mouth guard like this is about as effective as an actual fish hook in protecting your teeth. The device designed to protect your teeth will not work as designed if you do not wear it properly!
Maintaining your mouth guard is just as important as wearing it the correct way. The follow pictures are from actual AYL players from various age levels showcasing good mouth guards and not so good mouthguards.
Bad Mouth Guard #1
This mouth guard has been chewed repeatedly on one side. While this is not the worst mouth guard I’ve seen it is not going to do a great job if the player is hit during a game because the grooves that the teeth are supposed to fit into are no longer there.
Bad Mouth Guard #2
This mouth guard is a worse version of the one above. I can’t imagine this is even comfortable to wear, which will likely lead to the player fish hooking the mouth guard. While I’ve never found molded plastic to be a particularly tasty substance to chew on I have ground my teeth on mouth guards that I’ve worn if I was stressed out during a game. This mouth guard is not going to protect the player when the player needs it.
Bad Mouth Guard #3
This is one of the worst mouth guards that my mother photographed. Each side has been bitten repeatedly and there is no way this fits into the player’s mouth as designed. Do not wait to replace your mouth guard when it gets to this point.
Good Mouth Guard #1
This mouth guard is in excellent condition. Notice that all of the impressed bite marks from the player’s original fitting are still intact, which means the mouth guard will fit comfortably and give the greatest degree of protection that it is designed to provide.
Good Mouth Guard #2
This mouthguard is even better than the one above, and the player has a back up mouth guard! Both mouth guards have been molded to his teeth, and they are kept in a container so they don’t get squished by other gear or stepped on while the player is suiting up. This player is probably going to save his mom and dad a lot of money in dental bills if he wears these nice mouth guards properly.[hr]
The April 1st, 2013 ADA Press Release Play it Safe: Prevent Facial Injuries With Simple Sports Safety Precautions noted a disturbing result of a AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) survey: “67% of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. This raises a question: if mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?”
I have an answer to that question: it is because mouth guards are not expensive.
I’ve seen returning players come into a spring season with brand-spanking new lacrosse gear. Brand new gloves, shiny helmets, top of the line arm pads, and cleats designed to “accelerate” them on the field. But they still have the same mouthguard they used when they started three years ago. Mouth guards should be the least expensive piece of required equipment that parents need to purchase for their young players. Sadly, many parents will shell out a couple hundred dollars each year on new equipment, but leave the mouth guard off the new gear list because, hey, it’s just a mouth guard. Well, if you or your player think that then here are two fun images for you all to think about:
Get a good mouth guard. Maintain it. Wear it correctly
… and you’ll lower your chances at having to shell out a few thousand in corrective dental work
Featured Image Credit – http://www.dentalgentlecare.com/dental_tip_april.htm (Apparently this post is well timed as April is National Facial Protection Month!)