How do Olympians protect their teeth?
Together Dental’s Marketing Director Liz, shares her experience.
When I was only 15, I received a full force blow from a hockey stick in the face, fracturing a cheek bone and loosening a tooth. Years later, I still have clear memories although my dentist was able to fix my tooth.
Watching the world’s top elite athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics makes me think about how we should safeguard our teeth when competing in sport. Sport is great for our mental health and for our fitness, but how we can ensure that we keep our teeth safe and free from risk?
When we watch Olympians in full contact sport, we might think that they are using a standard mouthguard bought online or in a shop. These might be okay for limited usage, but an elite athlete is much more likely to be wearing a custom-made guard.
In Taekwondo, for instance, they even have an official sponsorship from the mouth guard company, OPRO, who are the world’s most technically advanced and innovative mouthguards. They routinely measure the teeth and mouths of the athletes to produce made to measure mouthguards providing full protection and comfort. It the guard fits perfectly then it is going to be more effective as there is less risk of it moving and failing to cover all teeth appropriately.
Three types of mouthguards are generally available: stock mouthguards, mouth formed mouthguards, and custom made mouth guards.
- Stock mouthguards
Stock mouthguards are ready to wear and mostly made from either polyvinyl chloride (nb. The use of PVC for mouthguards is illegal under EU law) polyurethane, or a co-polymer of vinyl acetate or ethylene. There is a risk that these might give a false sense of security to some intense contact-sports players
- Mouth formed mouthguards
These are “boil and bite” mouthguards, where a thermoplastic rim is heated in hot water then placed in the mouth and moulded by biting and sucking. These mouthguards have a poor fit on the teeth and tend to be thin over prominent teeth that are prone to damage. Not ideal!
- Custom made mouthguards
Custom made mouthguards are made in a dental laboratory on a cast taken from an impression supplied by a dentist. A thermoplastic material is heated in a pressure or vacuum forming machine and when soft enough is placed over the cast and air pressure or a vacuum is applied which closely adapts the soft material to the cast.
A custom-made guard is generally the best option and offer the most protection.
If You are choosing a mouth guard then please ask your dentist and they will be happy to recommend the best option for you, and the sport that you are playing.
Medical professionals recommend that guards should enclose the maxillary teeth to the distal surface of the second molars. The thickness should be 3 mm on the labial aspects, 2 mm on the occlusal aspect, and 1 mm on the palatal aspect. The labial flange should extend to within 2 mm of the vestibular reflection.