Ah, it’s spring! As temperatures rise, parents and their “cubs” venture out of their winter dens to enjoy the renewed warmth of the outdoors. April especially marks the height of this activity, especially among children and teenagers participating in sports and other outdoor pursuits. But along with all the fun and enjoyment outdoor activity brings, there’s also the risk of injury—including the face and mouth.

April is National Facial Protection Month, a chance to remind everyone about the potential for orofacial injuries that accompany some of our favorite sports and activities. We can also reduce that injury potential with just the right protective equipment.

For mouth or facial protection, two particular pieces of equipment are often essential. One of these is a helmet appropriate to the sport or activity. You might assume a helmet mainly serves to prevent head injury, but it could also play an important role in avoiding injury to the face and mouth. A baseball batting helmet, for example, has guards or cages that prevent a pitched or hit ball from the face or jaw area.

The second piece of essential equipment is an athletic mouthguard. These appliances of pliable plastic worn in the mouth help cushion any blows to the mouth or jaw. It’s a must for sports like baseball, basketball or football, as well as outdoor activities like mountain biking.

Although there are a variety of mouthguards, most fall into one of two categories. The first are “boil and bite” mouthguards, which you’ll find in generalized sizes online or in retail sporting goods stores. The intended wearer first places the newly acquired guard in hot or boiling water to soften it. They then place the softened guard in their mouth and bite down, which creates a custom fit when it cools (hence the term “boil and bite”).

The other category is a custom mouthguard created by a dentist based on the individual wearer’s mouth dimensions. Custom guards are more expensive, but they require less material than a retail guard and are usually more comfortable to wear. Because they fit more precisely, they may also offer better protection.

These essential pieces of equipment should be worn whenever the activity calls for it. That includes practice times, scrimmages or “pick-up” games, and not just formal contests. Mouth injuries aren’t restricted to regulation games.

So, before your all-star begins their new spring season, be sure their teeth, mouth and jaws are protected with these essential pieces of safety equipment. You don’t want a devastating orofacial injury to ruin the fun.

If you would like more information about preventing or treating sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

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