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Preventing Injuries in Contact Sports with Mouth Guards

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According to studies conducted by Kerr IL (1986), there is a significant decrease in the number and severity of injuries reported by athletes in sports where the athletes were required to wear a mouth guard. They include hockey, cricket, American football, boxing and rugby.

Mouth guards work like shock absorbers. A direct blow to the face transmits shock waves through the skull, leading to fracture of the front teeth. If the blow is severe, the transmitted force may lead to a fracture of the lower jaw and if the waves travel towards the base of the skull, it may lead to a concussion. A mouth guard spreads the energy over a wider area, so that the effects are attenuated with considerable reduction in the injury that could have occurred.

There are various types of mouth guards. The best form of mouth guard is the custom made one. Some are made in multiple layers to ensure that important areas such as the tips of the front teeth get a generous covering. Custom made mouth guards are shaped to ensure that they are as comfortable and as unobtrusive as possible.

Less expensive versions such as the stock mouth guards and the boil and bite are available over the counter, but they are less effective. Stock mouth guards come ready to wear, but understandably, they do not fit very well and can cause breathing or talking difficulties. The boil and bite version is first softened in boiling water and then allowed to take shape when fitted in the mouth.

Mouth guards are particularly valuable in individuals wearing fixed bridge work or braces because they prevent injuries to the cheek by acting as barrier between braces and the soft tissue in the mouth. It is generally advisable to avoid wearing dental appliances during contact sports if they are removable. 

Custom made professionally procured mouth guards should be worn whenever a sport involving physical contact or moving objects is played. It has been found that custom made mouth guards could reduce the risk of brain injuries in athletes. They can be ordered from a dentist. They cushion the teeth and gums and serve as protection against broken teeth and dislocated jaws. Like most other sport equipment, they are subjected to wear and tear and may need to be replaced often. It is recommended that they be checked regularly for fit and any signs of wear and tear to find out if there is need to replace them.