Did you know that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body? That’s right – it’s even stronger than bone! While your teeth are incredibly powerful, they’re not invincible. While all of the other tissues in our bodies are able to repair themselves, our teeth don’t have the same ability. That means that when they’re damaged, they must be repaired by a skilled dentist or orthodontist. These damages can be aesthetically unpleasing, but, more seriously, they can also cause oral health issues that are costly to repair. That’s why we’re taking a look at how to protect your smile when playing sports with braces.
If you’re wearing braces, there’s an added worry about damages to your orthodontic appliances. This topic comes up quite often with our patients who play sports at their school or in their community. At Bowen Family Orthodontics, we highly recommend that all our patients who are involved in sports wear a mouthguard. This is the absolute best way to protect your mouth, teeth, and braces while you’re in action on the court or field! There are multiple options on the market, so let’s take a look at the differences, when they should be worn, and how to take care of them!
Regular mouthguard vs. orthodontic mouthguard
Mouthguards are the most effective way to protect your smile from any type of damage while you’re playing sports. Whether you’re playing a contact sport like football or hockey or a low-contact sport, like baseball or volleyball, we encourage you to wear a mouthguard. Accidents happen, and it’s better to be prepared than to be caught off-guard and risk damaging your braces!
While both regular and orthodontic mouthguards provide protection for patients who are wearing braces, there are some key differences to be aware of. Standard mouthguards (“boil and bite” mouthguards) are made of a material called thermoplastic, that heats up in your mouth and molds to fit around the teeth. If you’re wearing braces, the material will also mold around the brackets as well, which can be problematic. If the molding fits too well around the brackets, the force of a blow could potentially knock the brackets right off the teeth, leading to an increase in the length of your treatment and more orthodontic visits.
This kind of molding also doesn’t allow for the movement of your teeth, which is the main goal of your orthodontic treatment! A non-orthodontic mouthguard can end up working against your braces in this way. These mouthguards also have to be replaced more often to keep up with the progress of the straightening process.
Orthodontic mouthguards, on the other hand, are made from a high-grade silicone that cushions the lips from bumping and rubbing against the teeth. This can prevent any painful situations, such as getting your lip caught in your braces (it’s just as bad as it sounds!)
Orthodontic mouthguards help to protect the brackets on your teeth and soften any hit they may take. Since these special mouthguards are built with a little extra room for your braces, they tend to be slightly bulkier than standard models, but they’re just as comfortable to wear!
There are also mouthguards made specifically for athletes in braces that are available online and over-the-counter. This includes well-known brands like ShockDoctor, Gladiator, and Vettex brands. These brands are slightly more expensive than standard mouthguards, but the extra protection they give your mouth and braces is completely worth it. While nothing compares to a customized orthodontic mouthguard, we always recommend wearing even a standard model over none at all.
When should mouthguards be worn?
If you plan to play sports during your orthodontic treatment, a mouthguard should be worn at all times. That includes during warmups, practice, and throughout the game. Injuries can occur at any time and in the simplest ways, so we want to ensure you have constant protection! We encourage you to wear a mouthguard, even if you play a non-contact sport, even though the risk is not quite as high.
If you’re an Invisalign patient, we encourage you to remove your aligner before playing sports and instead replace it with a mouthguard. When not in use, aligners should always be placed somewhere clean and safe, and put back in as soon as practice or the game is complete.
How to care for an orthodontic mouthguard
When cared for properly, orthodontic mouthguards can last for quite a while. Bacteria can easily grow on mouthguards, so it’s important to clean them every time you take them out. We recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste to gently brush the inner and outer surfaces of your mouthguard. An antimicrobial solution may also be used such as a bacteria-killing rinse. For a deeper cleaning, the mouthguard can be left to soak overnight in a glass of water with a denture cleaning tablet. Mouthguards should always be kept in a case when they’re not in use!
Keep your smile safe with Bowen Family Orthodontics
Orthodontic mouthguards are the absolute best way to ensure your teeth stay safe, even when you’re playing a sport that could potentially cause injury. We know accidents happen, and damage can still occur. If you do sustain any damage to your mouth, teeth, or braces, we encourage you to call our office right away! That way, we can assess the situation and determine next steps.
Bowen Family Orthodontics is committed to providing you a positive, stress-free experience as a braces patient, including carrying on with your sports activities! To learn more about how you can safely play sports during the course of your braces treatment, contact our office and we’ll be more than happy to discuss the best orthodontic mouthguard for you!