Playing sport keeps kids and teenagers fit, helps with their physical development and lowers their risk of health problems, but sports can bring their own set of risks. In particular, sport and other active pastimes are the most common cause of dental injuries for young people in Australia.
Injuries to the teeth, mouth and jaws can often be serious and expensive to treat. While you can't always prevent accidents from happening, you can lower the risk of your child needing emergency dental care by making sure they wear a custom mouthguard from their dentist.
How do mouthguards work?
Sports mouthguards are made from a strong but flexible plastic that's moulded into the shape of the upper arch (row) of teeth. They are worn over the upper teeth during sports and other risky activities where they act as a protective barrier to cushion and absorb some of the force of impacts.
A good mouthguard should be strong enough to withstand powerful blows, not subject to wear and tear and feel comfortable in the mouth. It should not affect your child's ability to breathe and communicate normally, cause gagging or impact on their athletic performance.
Who should wear a mouthguard?
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that custom mouthguards should be worn by anyone who plays contact sports or other leisure activities that involve a high risk of collisions or falls that could result in a dental emergency. Many schools and sports clubs now have a mandatory mouthguard policy that requires players to have their own mouthguard to participate.
Dental injuries from sports can include cuts to the cheeks, gums, lips or tongue, broken jaws and teeth being chipped, cracked or knocked out completely. As well as being painful, these injuries can sometimes be disfiguring or have other long-term effects on a child. They could also require time off school and extensive and expensive treatment to correct.
Athletic mouthguards can prevent more serious injuries and are recommended for kids and teenagers taking part in contact sports including rugby, soccer and hockey, as well as other activities such as basketball and netball, mountain biking and skateboarding that carry a risk of dental injury. Mouthguards should be worn during training as well as matches.
Children may be at higher risk of dental injuries from sports if they have protruding (buck) teeth or are having an orthodontic treatment such as braces.
Over-the-counter vs. custom mouthguards
Custom-fitted mouthguards are not the same as the ready-made or 'boil-and-bite' mouthguards you can buy from stores. Custom mouthguards are based on true impressions of your child's teeth and can only be provided by a dentist.
If you're wondering whether a custom-made mouthguard is worth the extra cost, or whether you need to upgrade if your child already has another mouthguard, here's how the common options compare.
Stock mouthguards are pre-formed to a generic mouth shape and ready to wear. While they may be the cheapest option, they offer the least protection of any mouthguard and are unlikely to fit comfortably over your child's teeth, especially if they are more widely spaced or they have an orthodontic issue. There may even be a danger of the mouthguard coming loose during impacts, which could be a choking hazard.
These mouthguards offer more comfort and protection than a stock mouthguard, as they are softened and moulded to your child's bite. However, they may still cause some discomfort or affect breathing or speech. Their softer material is also less protective and wears out faster than a custom mouthguard, usually needing to be replaced every season.
Custom mouthguards are made by dental technicians based on impressions (moulds) of your child's teeth. This ensures that the mouthguard conforms precisely to the shape of their teeth for a comfortable fit and superior protection, especially for children with irregular teeth or braces. These mouthguards are also less likely to affect a child's breathing, speech and performance during games.
A custom mouthguard costs more than the alternatives, but it can make the difference to avoiding expensive treatment or surgery fees. As they are a preventive measure, mouthguard costs are normally covered by health funds that include dental cover.
Custom mouthguard options
If you decide that you want your child to benefit from the protection of a custom-fitted mouthguard, your dentist will explain what their choices are, based on their needs and your price range.
At Robina Town Dental, we offer the following types of custom mouthguards for kids and teenagers, all made from durable materials to give their teeth the protection they need.
Single laminate mouthguard
Designed for younger children aged 5 to 12 taking part in sports such as soccer and basketball that have a low to medium risk of impacts. The mouthguard requires minimal preparation and is suitable for children with a range of orthodontic needs.
Double laminate mouthguard
Suitable for teenagers and adults whose teeth require more protection when participating in contact sports in or out of school, including rugby, soccer and hockey. These mouthguards are suitable for brace wearers.
Professional sport mouthguard
Offering the highest level of protection, our dentists may recommend these mouthguards for teenagers or adults taking part in sports and other activities with a high risk of impacts, including rugby, boxing and martial arts.
In addition to sports mouthguards, our dentists may recommend a splint, night guard or other oral appliance similar to a mouthguard to help treat a range of conditions in children and adults, such as teeth grinding (bruxism), TMJ disorders or obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
Can I personalise my mouthguard?
Most dentists will give your child a choice of mouthguard colours or other custom designs. This can help to make a mouthguard more appealing for reluctant wearers.
At Robina Town Dental, our double laminate and professional sport mouthguards are available in 1 to 4 colours, which can be customised to your child's team colours or other preferred combinations. Single laminate mouthguards are available in single colours only, including plain or fluorescent colours.
We can also print your child's name or other details on their mouthguard on request.
How is a custom mouthguard made?
Creating and fitting children's mouthguards involves two visits to the dental clinic.
On your first visit, your dentist will take impressions of the shape of your child's teeth that will be used to make their custom-fitted mouthguard. At Robina Town Dental, we take digital scans to create a detailed 3D image of your child's teeth, ensuring greater accuracy and avoiding the discomfort of physical moulds.
Your dentist will send these impressions to a dental laboratory where your child's mouthguard will be manufactured out of strong and flexible materials. Mouthguards at Robina Town Dental are made by trusted technicians in Melbourne.
Within 7 working days of your child's first appointment, their mouthguard should arrive at the dental clinic and you can attend the fitting appointment. Your dentist will check that the mouthguard fits and feels comfortable as expected, or may need to make minor adjustments. They will also offer advice about how to use and care for their mouthguard for the best results.
How to care for your custom mouthguard
Custom mouthguards are more durable than the boil-and-bite variety, but it's still important that your child takes good care of their mouthguard so it can stay in good condition and do its job.
Their mouthguard should be washed using soap and warm water after every use. Avoid hot water, as this could warp the material. Your dentist may also recommend rinsing it with an antibacterial mouthwash to prevent bacteria from building up.
Between uses, mouthguards should be kept in the storage box your dentist provides or another well-ventilated container. Keep it out of direct sunlight, closed vehicles and other sources of heat.
If a mouthguard gets damaged, feels uncomfortable or no longer fits, contact your child's dentist as soon as possible to arrange a new fitting and replacement.
When should you replace a mouthguard?
Custom mouthguards are designed to be long-lasting, but dentists recommend that children's mouthguards should be replaced every 12 to 18 months, even if they don't show signs of damage. This is because the teeth and jaws are constantly growing through childhood and adolescence and their mouthguard could become tight or uncomfortable without warning.
Mouthguards should be replaced sooner if they show signs of damage or warping, they no longer feel comfortable or if your child grows new teeth or loses teeth. Your dentist will recommend bringing your child's mouthguard with them to their regular check-ups so they can check its condition and fit.
Children's mouthguards on the Gold Coast
If your child needs a mouthguard and you think a custom mouthguard is the way to go, make an appointment with our family dentists at Robina Town Dental. We'll explain what your options are and help you to get started.
Our Gold Coast dental clinic is conveniently located in Robina Town Centre and we welcome patients from all nearby suburbs including Burleigh Heads, Mudgeeraba, Miami, Varsity Lakes, Burleigh Waters, Merrimac, Mermaid Waters, Worongary and Clear Island Waters.
Better Health Channel. Mouthguards [Online] 2014 [Accessed December 2021] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/mouthguards