In spite of the current pandemic, many schools and communities have found a way to continue their sports programs with the appropriate social distancing. That’s good news for the many athletes we treat here at Kottemann Orthodontics, but if you’re new to braces, you may have an entirely different concern in mind when it comes to playing sports.
We often hear from teens and adults who worry that wearing braces will mean sitting on the sidelines throughout the treatment process. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between a straighter smile and the sports you love! You will have to take some extra precautions to keep your mouth safe, though. Let’s take a closer look at how you can protect your teeth and your braces when you’re on the court or field!
Why are extra precautions necessary, anyway?
It’s not at all unusual for athletes of every stripe to experience mouth and jaw injuries. These can occur even if you’re wearing protective gear and being careful, but you should always take extra precautions when you play sports while wearing braces. That’s because the brackets are affixed directly to the surface of your teeth, so if you’re hit in the mouth or take a hard fall, you’re at an increased risk for oral injuries.
Why is that a big deal? The brackets and wires that braces are made up of add a more serious element to oral injuries. They can cut the inside of your mouth, and the components themselves can be damaged if you take a direct hit. We’ve seen more than our share of bent wires and broken brackets after practices and games! There are also a number of common injuries among orthodontic patients who play sports, including:
- lacerations to the cheeks, lips, and tongue
- chipped or broken teeth
- dislocation of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- root fractures
Although none of these mouth injuries are life-threatening, they can still be painful and may also be costly to treat or correct. This is the main reason we encourage all our patients in braces to wear a mouthguard when playing sports!
How to protect your smile with an orthodontic mouthguard
Wearing a mouthguard is one of the easiest ways to protect your mouth and braces from sports-related injuries. As a matter of fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) has stated that wearing the right mouthguard can lower your chances of injury by almost twofold! That’s a pretty impressive statistic, but what do they mean by the “right mouthguard”?
There are different types of mouthguards available, and if you plan to play sports while you’re wearing braces, we recommend an orthodontic mouthguard. These are designed specifically for use with braces and made with high-grade silicone that cushions your lips. This keeps them from bumping up against your teeth and brackets, and helps protect the brackets from any impact-related damage. Orthodontic mouthguards can also stop your lips from getting caught in your braces, which is exactly as uncomfortable as it sounds!
With orthodontic mouthguards, you’ll have a bit of extra built-in space for your braces so they can easily fit over the brackets, teeth, and gums. This design means they are slightly larger than regular mouthguards, but still provide the same level of comfort and protection. Some models, like those made by popular brands Shock Doctor and Tapout, adjust to the movements your teeth make during treatment. That means they can be molded and re-molded over and over as your new smile starts to take shape. Since they adjust themselves based on your current bite, they’re an excellent choice for athletes in braces.
A wide range of orthodontic mouthguards can be found online or in most major sporting goods stores. They come in both strapped and unstrapped styles and are very affordable. If you’re not sure about where or how to find one, we’ll be happy to recommend one for you based on your particular needs!
Will a basic mouthguard work?
While our doctors strongly recommend an orthodontic mouthguard for braces patients, even a basic mouthguard will give you some form of protection from bleeding gums, broken brackets, and fractured teeth. This is especially important if you take part in high-contact sports like football, wrestling, and basketball. That said, you should consider wearing a mouthguard for low-impact sports or practices, too. Keep in mind that it only takes a small amount of pressure on your braces to cause irritation or abrasions inside your mouth.
What if an oral injury does occur?
Oral injuries can happen even if you’re wearing a mouthguard properly. If you experience any injury to your mouth or jaw, it’s important to have it evaluated as soon as possible. Get in touch with your general dentist first so that he or she can diagnose any root or jaw bone fractures. Once you’ve been assessed for damage by your dentist, you should let our office know what’s happened so our doctors can determine if any part of your braces needs to be replaced or repaired as well.
Score points with a smile from Kottemann Orthodontics
Although oral injuries are rarely serious, they can still delay or negatively impact your orthodontic treatment. Whether you’re a current braces patient or expect to have braces put on soon, keep your smile safe by finding the right mouthguard for you! If you have any questions or concerns about how to protect your mouth with braces in place, feel free to reach out to us anytime. Our team will be happy to walk you through all your options and get you back into the game safely as soon as possible!