Mouthguards take the bite out of tooth, mouth injuries

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Knee pads? Check

Ankle brace? Check.

Mouth guard? Hmmm.

When most active people prepare for their respective sport, they often overlook the need for a mouth guard. But, statistics show that is one piece of protective equipment that shouldn't go tongue-in-cheek.

Each year more than 500,000 dental injuries occur nationwide during sporting activities. Of these, 20 percent are serious in nature and can result in tooth loss.

But, Sheppard's dental clinic can help athletes prevent dental injuries and tooth loss with custom-fitted mouth guards for active-duty members. Dental injuries not only occur in contact sports such as football, boxing and hockey, but also in basketball, baseball, soccer and volleyball.

Any time a chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces exists, it is advisable to wear a mouth guard.

Capt. Daniel Palazzolo, the assistant chief of periodontics at the 82nd Dental Squadron, said mouth guards work by absorbing the shock of a direct impact or collision and spreads the force over the entire mouth and jaw.

"They work to prevent the lower jaw from banging into the upper jaw and reduce injuries to the teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue," he said. "There are three different types of mouth guards: stock mouth guard, boil and bite and custom-fitted mouth guard."

Stock mouth guards are available at most sporting goods stores, Captain Palazzolo said. They are not form fitted and are bulky. They also may interfere with speech and breathing.

The boil-and-bite mouth guards are also available at most sporting goods stores, he said. The wearer must soften the mouth guard by placing it in boiling water and then bite down into the material. This type of mouth guard offers a better fit and more protection than a stock mouth guard.

The wearer should follow the instructions on the packaging to avoid an ill-fitting mouth guard.

Custom-fitted mouth guards are made at dental clinics and involve just two short visits. Captain Palazzolo said they offer the best protection, fit and comfort and do not interfere with speech or breathing.

A mouth guard is not a nuisance, but serves as a preventive piece of safety equipment for sports. To set up an appointment to obtain a custom-made mouth guard, call 676-4474.

(Courtesy of the 82nd Dental Squadron)