How Do Athletic Mouth Guards Actually Protect Athletes?

If you have an athlete in the family, you’ve probably heard about the importance of always wearing an athletic mouth guard during sports. But what, exactly, do athletic mouth guards do to protect athletes?

The basic answer is that they act as a shock absorber during any impact to the mouth, jaw, or chin. These are the three areas where orofacial injuries usually happen. When there is no athletic mouth guard present, the impact is a lot heavier, potentially resulting in damage.

Here are three common types of injury-causing impacts that orthodontist-approved athletic mouth guards help protect them from:

  • Direct impact to the mouth. This is probably the type of injury you think of when you hear of an athletic oral injury. An impact to the mouth can come from several sources, and depending on the activity, it could be a stick, puck, ball, hand, or elbow. When the mouth is hit, it can result in injuries to the athlete’s lips, cheeks, gums, and teeth.
  • Direct impact to the jaw. This impact usually comes from the side, causing damage to the jaw of an athlete directly rather than the mouth. These injuries are located in the jawbones, teeth, and jaw joint (TMJ).
  • Impact under the chin. Typically, this impact comes from a shoulder, hand, or elbow moving upward from below. The resulting force causes the lower jaw to slam into the upper jaw, resulting in damage to the jawbones, teeth, and jaw joint (TMJ).

An athletic mouth guard protects the soft tissues and teeth in the event of an impact. It absorbs the impact and disperses it to the rest of the mouth so that one area is not targeted. It also softens the sharp edges of the teeth and braces to minimize or even completely prevent damage to the soft tissues inside an athlete’s mouth.

An athletic mouth guard also protects against trauma (fractures and displacement) to the jaw joint and jaws by cushioning and reducing the amount of shock produced when the upper and lower jaws collide.

To get the best results from an athletic mouth guard, it should fit closely against the upper teeth without the need for biting or clenching. This means that the most effective type of athletic mouth guard (that offers the most protection) is one that is custom-made to fit the athlete’s mouth. It should feel comfortable during wear and stay in place.

For a consultation on fitting an athletic mouth guard, book an appointment with Dr. Kendra Pratt Manning.