One of the most important parts of any uniform!
Are custom-made guards really better?
Custom-made mouth protectors: According to Dr. Ray Padilla, incoming President of the Academy of Sports Dentistry, the best mouthguard (based on research evidence), remains one that is custom designed and made by a dental professional with the athlete's individual needs taken into account. It allows the dentist to address questions at a “pre-season” screening or dental examination. The age of a child or adolescent athlete and the possibility of providing space for erupting (growing) teeth and jaws, can be accommodated with a custom-made guard. Even the very best over the counter product cannot insure quality and effectiveness.
Custom mouth guards are made from exact and precise models of an individual's own teeth; are made of resilient and tear resistant materials ensuring a proper fit; are comfortable, easy to clean, and do not restrict breathing. A properly fitted mouthguard must be protective, comfortable, resilient, tear resistant, odorless, tasteless, not bulky and have excellent retention, fit, and sufficient thickness in critical areas.
There are two types of custom mouthguards, the outdated Vacuum Mouthguard and the modern Pressure Laminated Mouthguard. A “thermoplastic” material (thermo-heat, plastic-moldable), usually EVA is adapted over the model with a vacuum machine; the mouthguard is then trimmed and polished to allow for proper tooth and gum adaptation. All back teeth should be covered and muscle attachments not impinged upon.
The best mouthguard remains one that is custom designed and made by a dental professional with the athlete's individual needs taken into account.
More recent studies suggest that the use of a more accurate pressure “thermo-forming” machine for the fabrication of multiple layered or laboratory pressure laminated (layered) mouthguard, are much more preferable to the single layer vacuum mouthguards. Laminated guards should last for at least 2 years for an adult with normal use. Each athlete should be evaluated individually for thickness and design to promote comfort and sufficient protection. The thicker materials (3-4mm) are not bulky and uncomfortable, but are more effective in absorbing impact energy. The thinner materials show marked deformation at the site of impact. Costs vary but are generally in $100 to $200 range.
How should a mouthguard be looked after?
According to a study in General Dentistry, “Everything that a microorganism needs to survive, including food and water, can be found in a mouthguard. Like other dental appliances such as dentures and retainers, mouthguards appear solid but they are very porous, like a sponge, and with use, microorganisms invade these pores.” Therefore:
- Rinse before and after each use or brush with a toothbrush and toothpaste;
- Clean the mouthguard after use in cold, soapy water or mouthwash and rinse thoroughly;
- Transport the mouthguard in a sturdy container that has vents;
- Make sure not to leave the mouthguard in the sun or in hot water;
- Check for wear and replace the mouthguard when necessary.
What about “Performance Enhancing” oral appliances?
The market has recently seen the introduction of so-called high-performance oral appliances or performance enhancing mouth wear. Says Dr. Mark Roettger, a researcher in the field, “Some basic scientists have suggested a link between the masticatory (chewing) system, specialized parts of the brain, and the autonomic (in essence, the automatic) nervous system to explain how biting the bullet so to speak, could positively affect individuals under stress. The purported goal of these performance-enhancing appliances is to decrease stress while improving strength and endurance. More recently, they have reported that lower (mandibular) jaw position and oral appliances may potentially affect not only upper body strength, but also endurance, recovery, concentration, and stress response.”
So far it seems that the marketing of this innovative mouth-wear is ahead of the research curve; there are as yet, no controlled clinical trails. Worn and marketed by sports' superstars and carrying price tags of anywhere from $500 to $2,000, while potentially promising, the evidence supporting their prowess for now is scant.