Tooth enamel is the toughest part of the body, stronger than even bone. That doesn’t mean it’s invincible, however! While every other type of tissue in our bodies can repair itself, our teeth are lacking the ability to do so. That means that any time a tooth or multiple teeth are damaged in any way, they’ll need to be repaired by a skilled dentist or orthodontist. Damages like this can not only alter your cosmetic appearance, but they may also lead to oral health issues that are painful or costly to repair. This can be even more upsetting if you’re wearing braces, since there’s an additional worry about damaging your appliance.
This is a topic that comes up frequently with patients who play sports at school or within the community. Here at Grubaugh Orthodontics, we highly recommend orthodontic mouthguards for our athletic patients who are in braces. This is the easiest and best way to keep your teeth and braces protected while you’re living your best life on the court or the field! Some of our patients do choose 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 take a look at the differences between the two. We’ll also talk about when mouthguards should be worn, and give you a few tips on how to take care of the one you choose. Keep reading below to learn more!
Regular mouthguard vs. orthodontic mouthguard
Mouthguards are the most effective method for protecting your smile while participating in sports. Whether you play in high-contact sports like football and 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. Grubaugh to release it!
Orthodontic mouthguards are built with these particular needs 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 made specifically for athletes in braces that can be purchased online or in some sporting goods stores. These include well-known brands like ShockDoctor, Gladiator, and Vettex. Although these tend to be a bit pricier than regular mouthguards, we believe the extra cost is worth the additional comfort and protection they provide. And while nothing can beat a customized orthodontic mouthguard, 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
Orthodontic mouthguards can last quite a long time if you’re careful with them. Because bacteria can easily grow on mouthguards, you should be vigilant about 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 can also be used for a bacteria-killing rinse. For a deep clean, you can leave your mouthguard soaking overnight in a glass of water with a denture cleaner tablet. Remember to always keep your mouthguard in a case when you’re not using it!
Grubaugh Orthodontics is here to keep your smile safe!
Orthodontic mouthguards are the best way to ensure your teeth stay safe even when you’re participating in sports. There may be times when damage is unavoidable, however. If you do sustain any damage to your mouth, teeth, or braces, we encourage you to give Dr. Grubaugh a call as soon as possible so he can assess the situation and figure out what your next step should be.
Here at Grubaugh Orthodontics, we’re 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 us anytime. We’d love to help you find an appropriate orthodontic mouthguard for your smile and your sport!