Health Team

Mouth guards protect teeth during sports

Posted March 8, 2010

— In the rough and tumble world of high school, college and pro sports, players wear all sorts of protective gear. However, many of them choose not to protect their teeth.

“It's just another protective device like the helmet or the face mask,” Dr. Ralph Leonard, with the UNC School of Dentistry, said.

Leonard said there are a broad range of mouth guard options available, even some for sale over-the-counter.

“They are the least expensive and probably least protective,” he said of the over-the-counter models.

The "boil and bite" type, made from a horseshoe-shaped plastic model, is used by 90 percent of athletes. The guard provides no protection to the palate, however.

“With the stock mouth guard you have to bite it to hold it in place,” UNC dental student Christian Johnson said.

Johnson, who plays basketball, had a custom guard made to protect her smile. Custom guards are molded to fit a person's teeth.

Leonard said the mouth guard is essential since it works as a shock absorber for the teeth and soft tissue.

“Injuries to the teeth and soft tissues can be very disfiguring,” Leonard explained.

However, the custom models are the most expensive option and the least used by athletes.

To help area athletes get custom guards, UNC dental students volunteer their services.

“We even have students that come back year after year to have new guards made, just in different colors,” Johnson said.

“Once you get the cast, you can really remake the guards as many times as you want,” UNC dental student Stephanie Chambers said.

Most dental offices can make a custom sports mouth guard. Standard models can be found at a sporting goods store.


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  • monkeyboy Mar 11, 2010

    mouthguards aren't really used to protect teeth. their most important function is preventing concussions in contact sports...

  • kenshi Mar 11, 2010

    Even back in the 70's when I was in high school ( in Cali) we were REQUIRED to use mouthguards or we couldn't participate in school sports.

  • icarrese Mar 10, 2010

    No way!

  • BigUNCFan Mar 10, 2010

    This just in, breaking news.

    Sky is blue and sun is yellow and grass is green.

  • The Fox Mar 10, 2010

    Let me write this down!

  • scientistjo Mar 10, 2010

    Breaking news...this just in!

  • mistersinister Mar 9, 2010

    And here I thought they were just decorative.

  • fourfivesix Mar 9, 2010

    why is this news?

    hey, water is wet. that is news.

  • Aceturnedjoker Mar 9, 2010

    Needless to say, the article points out the obvious. How about some numbers to go along with it? Maybe list some prices, places or companies whom make "better" mouthguards