What’s the difference between a dentist-designed mouthguard and getting one of those boil-and-bite ones off the shelf? If you play sport, there are three different types of mouthguards you can use to prevent dental trauma. There’s the over-the-counter mouthguards, where you just bite the mouthguard and whack it in. These are cheap and ready to use, but there are usually limited sizes and they are quite bulky.

Secondly, there’s the boil-and-bite mouthguard which has similar issues to the stock mouthguards. This mouthguard is immersed in hot water so it takes the shape of the teeth and mouth. It’s could be uncomfortable as it doesn’t actually conform much.

Then there are the custom-made ones, which are made by a dentist. They’re widely seen as being superior, partly because they fit much better. It’s a precision fit and quality materials are used to afford maximum protection if you’re injured. The mouthguard acts like a shock absorber and redistributes the shock.

Dental cost to consider

Choosing a mouthguard is a cost issue for many people. A dentist-designed mouthguard can be expensive as opposed to a ten-dollar, off-the-shelf one. But if you end up knocking out a tooth because of dental trauma, that’s a false economy straight off the bat.

I guess having any mouthguard is better than nothing, but if a tooth is broken or if it comes out, the long-term cost of fixing this is much more expensive. I myself have tried using a boil-and-bite mouthguard and, even as a dentist, I found it very difficult to get it sitting on my teeth properly.

When dental trauma happens

What should you do if a tooth gets knocked out when playing sport? Stay calm. Find the tooth. You should handle the tooth by the crown only. If it’s clean, you place it back into the socket. If it’s dirty, you’ll either clean it by rinsing it in milk, or simply suck on it until you can get to the dentist.

If you’ve shoved it back in the socket, or if it’s in milk, there is a chance of it being placed back in your jaw when you get to the dentist. We usually splint it together with the other teeth to keep it there so it can reattach. That’s the ideal solution.

If the root’s still in but the tooth’s been broken, it’s not quite the same. You would need to go to the dentist straight away and have it looked at. It’s still good for you to bring it in to the dentist but in most cases, it’s not possible to reattach the broken piece. That’s another reason to make sure you got a descent mouthguard to minimise the risk of it happening in the first place.

Being cautious

There’s a lot of sports that people think are safe — badminton, for example. But it really doesn’t matter what sport you play, you pretty much need to have a mouthguard in. There’s a list of critical and just different levels in terms of mouthguard, or in terms of contact and risk of injury. But trauma can happen at any time. You could be jumping on a trampoline and accidentally land on your face. It’s about being cautious, being safe, and maybe being a little bit smart as well.

These days you can have mouthguards that look cool. You can even get team colours — this could be a real fashion statement. NFL players wear them, after all.

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