Protecting your teeth won’t make you a wuss Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 January 2016
By Veronique Hauschild
Special to GUIDON
 
There is nothing bold or dashing about failing to protect your teeth.

To the contrary, losing a tooth is simply unattractive and uncool. Tooth loss or other mouth injuries that can be prevented with a mouth guard can be painful, expensive to fix, result in lost time from work and physical activity and even cause permanent facial  disfigurement.

Tooth loss due to injuries is more common among Soldiers than among members of the other branches of  service.

Scientific evidence has shown that mouth guards prevent injuries to the lips, mouth, tongue and teeth. These are referred to as dental and orofacial  injuries.

A 1999 study at Fort Leonard Wood,  showed a 74 percent decrease in dental injuries during military combat training activities, once mouth guards were provided.

For this reason, Army regulation 600-63 requires individuals to use mouth guards for military training activities that have been shown to have a high risk of mouth or facial injuries.

These activities include obstacle and confidence courses training, one-on-one combatives training, rifle and bayonet training and pugil stick training.

In addition to these military-specific activities known to have a high potential to result in injuries to the face or mouth, the American Dental Association and International Academy of Sports Dentistry identified 29 sports and exercise activities for which they highly recommend mouth guards be worn.

These include several sports that are popular among military members — football, basketball, martial arts, wrestling, soccer, skiing, extreme sports, volleyball, racquetball, softball, skateboarding, lacrosse, rugby and  equestrian events.

If you participate in any of these sports, you can look smarter by using a mouth guard to protect your “pearly whites.” Think of the professional athletes who recognize this simple form  of protection.

While all mouth guards offer protection, some offer more than others. Factors such as comfort, cost and how frequently you will need to wear it, should also be considered when deciding which to use.

Mouth guards only need to cover the teeth and the gums around the teeth — large, bulky rims covering the entire gum area or roof of the mouth are not necessary.

The following are three types of mouth guards commonly used in sports and recreational activities.

— Custom-made mouth guards are an impression of the individual’s mouth crafted by a dentist. The guard is made from high quality materials to ensure fit and that it stays in place.

They are the most expensive and must be obtained through a dentist’s office. A custom-made mouth guard provides the highest level of comfort and fit and offers the best level of  protection.

— Boil and bite mouth guards are less expensive and widely available in sporting goods stores.

This mouth guard is made from thermoplastic material, so the wearer can soften it in hot water, and then insert the tray into the mouth after cooling. The tray is molded and shaped to the wearer’s bite by using fingers, lips and tongue.

It is not as good as a custom-made mouth guard, but provides the next best level of protection.

There are problems associated with this mouth guard such as it may not stay in place inside the mouth and inhibit speaking when worn.

— Stock mouth guards are preformed and “ready-to-wear.” They are the least expensive and widely available in sporting goods stores.

However, this mouth guard may inhibit breathing or speaking when worn, little can be done to adjust it and sizes are limited — typically small to large. It offers the least protection of all three mouth guards.

Use these criteria to guide your selection of a mouth guard.

Once you have your mouth guard, routinely clean in cool, soapy water and rinse thoroughly once a week, inspect it and replace if there are holes/tears, bite-throughs, or distortions, when  necessary.

Mouth guards wear out and do not provide the same level of protection once damaged.

Do this so you can continue to look good while working and playing hard.

For more information, contact the Army Public Health Center (Provisional) Injury Prevention Program at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

(Editor’s note: Hauschild is an environmental scientist with Army Public Health Center.)
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 February 2016 )