Every parent’s goal is to ensure that their kids have a safe, enjoyable experience on the field or court. That’s why we spend so much time and money picking out the right helmets, knee pads and shoes for practice and competition. One of the most important pieces of sports safety equipment for budding athletes is the moldable mouthguard. This critical piece of gear may seem inconsequential, but it can save your child a lifetime of pain, discomfort and missed play due to injuries.
If you’re debating whether to order your child a mouthguard for their specific sport, GuardLab is here to help. We’re experts on everything about sports mouthguards and will be able to help you identify which type to buy for your child’s specific activity and preferences. In this guide, we’ll cover when and why kids need to wear mouthguards in sports and cover some important considerations to help keep growing athletes safe no matter their sport.
When and Where Should Kids Wear Mouthguards?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends sporting mouthguards for athletes “of all ages” to prevent injury during physical activity. As soon as your child begins practicing their sport of choice — whether at home, in the neighborhood or in an organized league — they should be wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard.
It’s important to note that, though your child may still have their baby teeth, injuries to the mouth and teeth sustained during youth can linger for a lifetime. Although knocking out or damaging a baby tooth has a high rate of full recovery, serious injuries can result in damage to the permanent tooth and the tooth’s structure, including the nerve and root below. Even if your child is still working with a full set of baby teeth, a mouthguard is critical to protecting their health in the future.
Which sports require a mouthguard for children? We typically associate oral protection with contact sports such as football, rugby, lacrosse and boxing, but the reality is that any high-impact sport or any activity with fall risk should require a properly fitting sports guard. Here’s a list of sports that can be made safer with the assistance of a kids’ mouthguard:
- Field hockey
- Ice hockey
- Roller derby
- Martial arts
- BMX biking
If you aren’t sure whether your child should be wearing a mouthguard for their sport of choice, ask your dentist for advice. Many sports also have league rules and regulations set forth by a larger governing body. They should be able to help you determine whether a mouthguard is suggested or required.
9 Reasons Your Child Should Wear a Mouthguard
Now that you understand that your budding athlete should likely be wearing some form of oral protection, it’s important to know why. Here are some of the research-backed benefits to wearing a properly fitting sports mouthguard at any age, starting with that very first football game, cheer competition or wrestling match.
1. They Protect Teeth – The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) specifically calls out mouthguards as an essential piece of athletic gear to protect teeth against dental injuries. They say that impact during sports can cause severe damage to the mouth and teeth in the form of chipped or lost teeth, tooth avulsions, displacement and other issues. To quantify the severity, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports that sports accidents account for as much as 39 percent of all dental injuries in children. Dental injuries in children are often costly, painful and inconvenient and may result in loss of play time for your child.
2. They Protect the Mouth as a Whole – A good-quality mouthguard isn’t just designed to shield the teeth from injury. Experts warn that high-impact sports can also lead to other oral health problems, such as lacerations to the gum and oral tissue, as well as severe damage to the tongues, lips and cheeks. The jawbone is also at a particularly high risk of damage during certain activities. Equipping your child with a new boil and bite mouthguard each season can help prevent them from sustaining injuries to the mouth and jaw.
3. They Prevent Damage to Braces – As the parent or coach of a growing child, you’re used to seeing a lot of braces on the field or court. Impact during sports can damage or displace certain orthodontic appliances, including brackets, fixed retainers and more.
A mouthguard not only prevents damage to the braces themselves, but also helps prevent the braces from cutting the gums and cheeks upon impact from fast-flying balls or the gym floor. This is important to helping your child get the most out of their braces, and it prevents you from having to make multiple costly trips to the orthodontist for repairs and replacements.
4. They Redistribute Forces – Equipping your child with the right safety equipment — such as properly fitting helmets and specific types of mouthguards — may reduce the risk of certain injuries. In fact, the AGD reports on research suggesting that mouthguards may help reposition or align the jaw so it better absorbs, dissipates or reduces possible concussion forces.
But because head trauma can happen from so many different angles and circumstances, there is simply no way to prevent concussions or serious head trauma. Note that more research on this topic is needed, and the only way to fully eliminate the risk of head trauma is to keep your child from engaging in a high-impact sport. Product choice is critical when you’re looking for top-tier protection. GuardLab’s ARC Guard Mouthguard may help to reduce risk of injury.
5. They Enhance Sports Performance – If you’re looking for a simple way to help boost your child’s sports performance, get them comfortable with custom-fitted mouthguards early in life. Interestingly, research has linked wearing a mouthguard with increased muscular force and power. Though more research is needed on the topic, scientists theorize that using a mouthguard may activate certain muscles that are linked with power and force development, potentially helping to increase performance.
While safety is probably reason enough for you to require your child to wear one, performance is a nice bonus. Custom-sized mouthguards are critical when performance is a factor. They ensure that the athlete can adequately breathe, drink water and talk during play.
6. They Help Kids Take Risks – In many sports, success relies on a player’s willingness to go the extra mile or push themselves into uncomfortable territory (within the parameters of safety and reason, of course). Whether it’s hitting that big stunt in competitive cheer or sliding to steal a base, it’s only natural for kids to have some level of hesitance in new physical activities.
This is especially true if your child doesn’t feel that the activity is safe or that they will be protected when taking risks. Mouthguards give some child athletes an extra layer of comfort so they can push themselves a bit harder during practice and competition. It should go without saying, but always do whatever you can to ensure that your growing athlete feels safe and comfortable during games and practice.
7. They Set a Good Example – As parents and coaches, it’s our job to instill a sense of responsibility in our children, as both people and athletes, to help them grow into healthy adults. Sometimes it’s not only about taking the necessary steps to prevent an accident, but about the emphasis on its importance. Rather than simply telling your child what safety precautions are required, make sure to explain to them why such precautions are so important. This will help them grasp the significance of safety in sports and all activities throughout their lives.
8. They Prevent Penalties – It’s worth pointing out that many youth sports leagues and organizations require athletes to wear a specific set of safety gear, including mouthguards.
For example, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the organization that creates the rules of competition for almost all high school sports, mandates the use of mouthguards for football, field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse and wrestling for wrestlers who have braces. The NFHS may call for penalties, misconducts, suspensions or even disqualification for players, teams or organizations that don’t closely follow their rules.
9. They Boost Team Spirit – When browsing through our offerings, you’ll notice that we have tons of cool mouthguards in our selection to match your child’s team colors or personal style. When everybody is wearing a matching uniform and gear that plays to their team spirit, they’re more likely to engage and feel connected with their teammates. Plus, picking out a cool mouthguard is a great way to help kids express themselves on the field or court.
Choosing the Best Mouthguard for Your Child
A good rule of thumb when selecting a mouthguard is: The more customized to the athlete, the better the protection. Not only because a better fit means a higher level of protection upon impact; but it’s also because a comfortable mouthguard is a lot more likely to get used regularly. Regardless of age, nobody wants to wear a mouthguard that inhibits breathing, drinking or talking. Comfort is key.
With this in mind, we all know that kids grow like weeds and their adult teeth don’t fully come in until the middle school years. In fact, many kids don’t see their permanent molars erupt until they’re teenagers. That means that the guard you choose for your child this season likely won’t fit properly next season. For this reason, except for elite and highly competitive athletes, it may not make sense to go for totally custom options — like our ARC Mouthguard — for children. Custom-fit mouthguards bring the best protection but are more expensive and require either a home impression or a 3D scan for fitting.
But the standard or “stock” mouthguard from the sports aisle at the big box store is not ideal, either, because it won’t fit your child’s mouth properly. An ill-fitting mouthguard is likely to get tossed aside during practice and competition, leaving your child vulnerable to injuries.
Instead, choose a semi-custom boil and bite mouthguard that fits your child’s mouth perfectly but doesn’t require the same time or financial investment as a totally custom one. Have your child create a new one at the beginning of every season for the perfect fit in between growth spurts.
Safety should be a primary consideration for parents and coaches looking to set good examples during sporting activities. Luckily, getting a high-quality, protective mouthguard for athletes of any age is simple and affordable with the help of GuardLab. If you aren’t sure which style to choose or whether your child needs a mouthguard for their sport, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team or speak to your child’s dentist or orthodontist.