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If you haven’t ever seen Scott Sterling in action in the goal, you are welcome. But, what on earth does it have to do with a mouthguard? Well, if Scott had been fielding those shots with his face, his teeth would have been planted in the grassy turf. So, both his soccer and modeling careers would have been finished. While jokes abound about hockey players’ teeth, there are ways to have a winning record and a winning smile. Nothing spoils a celebration party like missing it because you are at an emergency dental appointment.

Protective gear is standard in sports, even for younger athletes. Helmets, pads, shinguards, gloves–these things are all in place to keep kid athletes safe and enjoying their sport for years to come. Perhaps the piece of equipment most universally encouraged is the helmet. Let’s take a look at why the helmet is such an easy requirement to expect and respect.

Concussions hurt. They cause confusion, pain, and sometimes have lasting effects. Depending on the severity of the concussion, an athlete can feel its effects for months or years. Concussions affect cognitive abilities, memory, and focus. Concussions also have a compounding effect, meaning each concussion can affect you a little bit more severely.

The brain injury, and its lasting damage, can disrupt someone’s life, leading them to miss school, work, and fun social experiences. Depending on the recovery time, this can set an athlete back for months. Looking at those factors, strapping on a helmet is a no brainer.

A mouthguard should be a similar reflex decision. Let’s compare:

Pain
While a mouthguard cannot stop a concussion, the lack of one can certainly lead to pain. Teeth can be knocked loose or knocked out entirely. Tongues can be bitten, requiring stitches and time to heal. Mouth pain is serious pain, and it can easily be avoided. Also, while a mouthguard does not protect the head, it can help to absorb some of the force of a blow to the head, possibly weakening the impact.

Lasting damage
A concussion can cause setbacks in work, school, and social activities. Damage to the mouth can have the same effects. It might be as manageable as a couple of missed days of school because of repairing a broken tooth to weeks of missed school as you deal with swelling, surgery, and recovery. Dental damage is not just cosmetic. There can be functional consequences as well. If the damage is severe enough it can affect eating. And if you have a child in sports–you know how much they like to eat!

If we know that dental damage can be so severe, why don’t we wear them? Why is it standard to put on a helmet, but not mouthguards. Everyone will have a different reason, but three main arguments come to mind.

Make Mouthguards Cool Again

(Freeimages / Chris C)

Discomfort
When we think of mouthguards, we probably think of the generic mouthguards that come standard at any sporting goods store, which look about as comfortable as putting a boomerang in your mouth. But, there are other options! Those are one size fits all, which is especially uncomfortable for a child’s mouth. Getting the right fit is essential, and we can help! A dentist can take a mold of your teeth and create a mouthguard that will fit your child’s mouth perfectly. Mouths change and so the mouthguard will have to as well.

Cost
A custom mouthguard sounds like a perfect solution, but it leads us to the next obstacle: cost. A custom mouthguard will be so much more comfortable, but also won’t be available at the corner store. Things that work better generally cost more. Still, it is an investment that will seem very worthwhile when your child is getting up off the turf after a heavy hit, and all their teeth are still in their proper place. A custom mouthguard is far cheaper than emergency dental care, and we will work with you to create a manageable payment plan.

Social Stigma
You’ve decided to invest in a comfortable mouthguard and the dentist has created the perfect fit. It even came with a nice and shiny case. So, how do we get it out of that shiny case and into those precious mouths? There can be a social stigma around protective gear, not just mouthguards. Sometimes we humans like to impress each other with our toughness.

If you’ve spent money on a mouthguard, you want it in a mouth, not a case! It takes time to make something a habit, so perhaps you can incentivize the habit with a reward that would mean something to your child. Also, tap into the world of celebrities! There are lots of athletes that are diligent about using mouthguards. They can positively influence your child. Show pictures of Steph Curry, LeBron James, and countless other athletes being smart, cool, and safe all at the same time.

Our Weber and Davis County dentists can make a mouthguard for your young athlete that will protect them while they run, tackle, slide, throw, or jump their way to success. We can’t make them run faster, but we can certainly keep them safer while they do it.