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Mouth Guards Are a Smart Choice For Protecting Your Smile

Sunday, April 08, 2007 | 07:00pm

As the weather begins to get warmer, children and teens get outside to participate in team and individual sports. Kids and parents alike should keep in mind that thousands of teens suffer tooth, lip, cheek and tongue injuries by blows to the face while engaging in spring sports and outdoor activities.  

“A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can protect your teeth and help you keep a beautiful smile,” said Oral Health Services Director Suzanne Hayes, DDS. “Mouth guards are an essential piece of protection that goes along with pads, helmets, cleats and other sports accessories.” 

A mouth guard is not only useful for contact sports like football and wrestling, but also for non-contact sports like gymnastics, soccer and lacrosse. Most dental experts recommend that a mouth guard should be worn for any recreational activity that poses a risk of injury to the mouth. 

There are three types of mouth guards: ready-made, or stock, mouth guard; mouth-formed “boil and bite” mouth guard; and custom-made mouth guard created by a licensed dentist. All three guards provide protection, but vary in comfort and cost. 

“A mouth guard should be durable, tear-resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly and be easy to clean, while not restricting your speech or breathing,” Hayes said. 

Mouth guard maintenance is as important as remembering to use one during activity. By caring for a mouth guard properly, comfort and protection are more reliable: 

  • Before and after each use, rinse it with cold water or with an antiseptic mouth rinse. It can also be cleaned with a toothpaste and toothbrush.
  • When it’s not used, place the mouth guard in a firm, perforated container. This permits air circulation and helps prevent damage.
  • Avoid high temperatures, such as hot water, hot surfaces or direct sunlight, which can distort the guard.
  • Check the mouth guard regularly for tears, holes and poor fit. A mouth guard that’s torn or in bad shape can irritate the mouth and lessen the protection it provides.
  • Bring the mouth guard to regular dental checkups for the dentist to make sure the guard is still in good condition.

Daily brushing and flossing, eating a nutritious diet, drinking fluoridated water and visiting a dentist twice a year are essential to optimal oral health. The Tennessee Department of Health Oral Health Services offers programs to aid good oral health, including mobile dental health clinics, prevention efforts including community water fluoridation and school-based dental preventive programs, in which Tennessee is a leader. For more information about Tennessee’s Oral Health programs for children and adults, please visit

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