As tough as our bones are, there’s one substance that’s even stronger–tooth enamel! Powerful though they may be, however, they’re not invincible. While every other type of tissue in our bodies can repair itself, our teeth are lacking in this important ability. That means that any time you damage a tooth or multiple teeth, they must be repaired by a skilled dentist or orthodontist. These damages can not only alter your cosmetic appearance, but they may also cause oral health issues that are costly to repair. And what happens if you’re wearing braces? If you’re an orthodontic patient, there’s an additional worry about damaging your appliance.
This is a topic that comes up often with our patients who play sports at school or within the community. Here at Glass Orthodontics, we strongly recommend orthodontic mouthguards for our athletic patients who are in braces. This is the single best way to keep your teeth and your braces protected while you’re in action on the court or field! Some of our patients opt to use a regular mouthguard instead, and this also provides some measure of protection for your mouth.
Both of these mouthguards have their pros and cons, so let’s explore the differences between the two, talk about when a mouthguard should be worn, and discuss how to take care of the one you choose. Keep reading to learn more!
Regular mouthguard vs. orthodontic mouthguard
Mouthguards are the easiest and most effective method for protecting your smile while playing sports. Whether you participate in high contact sports like football or basketball or light-contact sports like baseball and volleyball, we recommend that you wear a mouthguard even during warm-ups.
While both regular and orthodontic mouthguards offer protection for a patient in braces, there are some important differences to be aware of. Regular mouthguards are thermoplastic, which means they are designed to heat up in the mouth and then mold around the teeth. If you wear 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 treatment time and more orthodontic visits.
This kind of molding doesn’t allow for movement of your teeth, either. Since this is what orthodontic treatment is actually working to achieve, a non-orthodontic mouthguard can work against your 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 treatment process.
Orthodontic mouthguards are designed differently. The material 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 up in a bracket during a blow or a fall. This can cause swelling, and may even require help from Dr. Glass to release it!
Orthodontic mouthguards are built with the needs of a braces patient in mind. They protect the brackets on the teeth and soften any hit they make take. To make room for your braces, they are slightly larger than regular mouthguards. However, they are just as comfortable to wear. To make sure all our patient’s protect their braces, we offer orthodontic mouthguards free of charge!
Over-the-counter mouthguards designed specifically for athletes in braces are also available. You can usually find these online and in some sporting goods stores. Some well-known brands to look for are ShockDoctor, Gladiator, and Vettex. While these tend to be a bit more expensive than regular mouthguards, we believe the extra cost is worth the additional comfort and protection they provide. While nothing can beat a customized orthodontic mouthguard in our opinion, we would still recommend these over regular mouthguards (and a regular mouthguard over nothing at all!)
When should mouthguards be worn?
If you wear braces and play a contact sport, a mouthguard should be worn at all times. That includes warming up, during practice, and throughout the game. Injuries can occur in the simplest of ways and are something to avoid at all costs. We recommended wearing a mouthguard just as frequently with non-contact sports, although obviously the risks are not as high if you fail to do so.
If you’re an Invisalign patient, consider taking your aligner out and replacing it with a tight-fitting mouthguard to protect your teeth better when you play. Aligners can fit a little more loosely than a mouthguard because they allow for the shifting of teeth into their correct positions. If aligners are removed, they should always be placed somewhere clean and safe, and put back in as soon as the practice or game is complete.
How to care for your orthodontic mouthguard
If you care for your orthodontic mouthguard carefully, it can last a long time. Because bacteria can easily grow on mouthguards, you should clean yours every time you take it out. We recommend using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste to gently clean the inner and outer surface, and an antimicrobial solution for a bacteria-killing rinse. To do some deep cleaning, leave your mouthguard soaking overnight in a glass of water with a denture cleaner tablet. Your mouthguard should always be kept in a case when you’re not using it.
Let Glass Orthodontics help you keep your smile safe
Orthodontic mouthguards are the best way to ensure your teeth stay safe even when you’re participating in sports, but there may be times when damage is unavoidable. If you do sustain any damage to your mouth, teeth, or braces, give Dr. Glass a call as soon as you can so he can assess the situation and figure out the next step for you.
Glass Orthodontics is committed to helping you continue all your normal activities while you’re in braces, including athletics. To learn more about safely playing sports while wearing braces, get in touch with our team. We’d love to help you find an appropriate orthodontic mouthguard for your smile!