Spring is in the air! Enjoy the beautiful weather and outdoor activities. But protect yourself and your children from injuries while you play.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and the American Dental Association remind us that April is National Facial Protection Month. It’s a great time to talk with your dentist about a dental mouth guard.

A mouth guard should be worn during contact sports and for any activity where you might sustain trauma to your mouth. The soft, flexible protector cushions your teeth from breakage, chips, or nerve damage and helps prevent having a tooth knocked out. It also saves injury to your lips, cheeks, and tongue inflicted by teeth or braces.

You can buy a pre-formed one at your local drug store, but probably won’t fit well, possibly hampering breathing and speaking. “Boil and bite” models are available at sporting goods stores for a somewhat better fit. But for the most comfortable, effective mouth protection, your dentist can provide a custom-fit mouth guard.

All you have to do is “wear and care.” Wear it anytime you participate in an activity where you could fall or sustain other trauma to your face. Think beyond traditional “contact sports” – walking, running, bicycling, skating, skateboarding, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and more. This small inconvenience could save your natural teeth, and prevent much expense and time in the dentist’s chair.

Caring for your mouth guard is easy. Follow instructions provided by your dentist or the manufacturer. If you don’t have those:

  • After each use, brush the mouth guard gently with a soft toothbrush and mild toothpaste. Rinse in warm water (not hot – it could change the shape of the device).
  • Air dry or dry thoroughly with a paper towel.
  • Place in the storage case.
  • If your mouth guard develops build-up or odor from continued use, soak it in a mild denture cleaning solution. Rinse, dry, and store.
  • A UV light sanitizer does a great job on oral protection devices.
  • Bring your mouth guard along to your regular dental check-ups. Your dentist will be happy to use his sanitizing equipment to deep clean it for you.

Enjoy sports, but play it safe where your teeth are concerned. Wear a dental mouth guard to minimize facial injuries.

Lee N. Sheldon, DMD