You may not realize it, but tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body—it’s even stronger than bone! As powerful as our teeth may be, however, they’re not invincible. Even though every other type of tissue in our bodies has the ability to repair itself, our teeth lack this important skill. That means that any time a tooth or multiple teeth are damaged, they must be repaired by a skilled dentist or orthodontist. These damages can not only look unsightly, but they may cause oral health issues that are costly to repair as well.
If you wear braces, there’s an additional worry about damaging your orthodontic appliance. This is a topic that comes up often with patients who play sports at school or in the community. Here at Foothill Orthodontics, we strongly recommend orthodontic mouthguards for our athletic patients who also wear braces. This is the single best way to keep your teeth and your braces protected while you’re out 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.
Let’s take a look at the differences between the two, when a mouthguard should be worn, and how to take care of the one you choose below!
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 one of our doctors 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.
There are also over-the-counter mouthguards that are made specifically for athletes in braces. These are often available online and in some sporting goods stores, and include well-known brands like ShockDoctor, Gladiator, and Vettex. Although these tend to be a bit more expensive than regular mouthguards, we feel the extra cost is worth the additional comfort and protection they provide. And while nothing can beat a customized orthodontic mouthguard, we would recommend these over the 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
Orthodontic mouthguards can last a long time if you care for them properly. Bacteria can easily grow on mouthguards, so you should be cleaning yours every time you take it out. We recommend using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste to gently clean the inner and outer surface. An antimicrobial solution may also be used as a bacteria-killing rinse. For deep cleaning, the mouthguard can be left 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.
Foothill Orthodontics is here to keep your smile safe
There’s no doubt that orthodontic mouthguards are the best way to ensure your teeth stay safe even when you’re participating in sports. There are times, however, when damage may be unavoidable. If you do sustain any damage to your mouth, teeth, or braces, we encourage you to call us as soon as you can so we can assess the situation and figure out the next step.
Here at Foothill Orthodontics, we’re dedicated to doing all we can to help you continue your normal activities while you’re in braces, including athletics. To learn more about safely playing sports while wearing braces, get in touch with us. Our team will be more than happy to help you find an appropriate orthodontic mouthguard for your smile and your sport!