Mouthguards: Essential Tool of Preventative Dentistry

Macro close up of a plastic teethguard to stop wear due to teeth grinding at night isolated against black background. Often caused by tension and worry.

There are many things that you can do to prevent dental mishaps.  One strategy is sometimes overlooked in its simplicity:  you can shield your teeth with protective armor!  Many of us remember from our own youth sports days that mouthguards are always recommended during physical activity.  Some of us may also remember them being cumbersome and inconvenient.  Luckily advances in plastics and simple, intuitive improvements have resulted in the latest mouthguards being far more comfortable and less bulky.  Getting a custom mouthguard from your dentist ensures not only enhanced comfort, but also improved efficacy over boiling a piece of rubber that you bought at Footlocker.  

 

It’s common sense that one use a protective mouthguard for highly physical interpersonal activities like football, baseball, and boxing.  Many people don’t consider the importance of oral protection in individual sports such as surfing, bicycling, or gymnastics, but the risk there can often be even greater.  

 

As with most physical injuries, the greatest risk typically lies in undertaking activities for which one has haphazardly prepared.  One study in Florida found that 62% of all dental patients presenting with orofacial injuries sustained them while participating in an unorganized sport.  The weekend skatepark rat rarely outfits himself as well as the competitive skater, but his oral health is at no less risk when he jumps on the board.  

 

It’s not just athletes who can benefit from protective mouth gear.  Many of us have continued need for custom mouthguards long after we retire from our sporting careers.  Habitual teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a condition that poses a threat to oral health and tooth structure, and it is relatively prevalent across all demographics.  Between 8% and 10% of adults are estimated to exhibit some notable level of bruxism.  It’s even more common in children.  

 

For some reason, most patients seem reluctant to discuss their bruxism, or perhaps are just unaware of it.  Either way, most reported cases of bruxism come from dentists observing the symptoms in their patients rather than patients reporting the issue on study surveys.  In addition to being crucial to diagnosis, your dentist can teach helpful oral exercises, provide the ideal mouthguard to correct the unconscious behavior, or render any other necessary corrective measures.

 

Mouthguards can also take on a more active role.  TMJ is a condition characterized by inflammation, pain, and lack of mobility in the joints of the jaw.  A special mouth guard that actively corrects the resting posture of the patient’s jaw can be used to treat this condition.  TMJ mouthguards, or splints, are different from standard protective mouthguards in that they are made of a rigid acrylic.  Custom fitting and consultation from a dental professional are especially important with these devices.  
Dr. Hutchison offers custom mouthguards to patients in Fort Worth.  If you think you have need for one, contact our office today!

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