Preventing injuries with mouth guards Published May 8, 2015 By By Tech. Sgt. Patrice Lewis 81st Dental Squadron KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- As the summer season winds up, so do outdoor activities - and dental injuries are the most frequently incurred facial injuries from sports activities. A mouth guard, a flexible custom fitted device worn over teeth during athletic and recreational activities to protect them from damage, is a device that can help prevent these injuries. A good-fitting mouth guard may be especially important if you wear braces or have dental appliances. One of the most obvious benefits of wearing a mouth guard is providing protection for the athlete's teeth and dental work. When a blow is delivered to the mouth, the energy of the impact must be absorbed by the structures on which it lands. The spongy structure of a guard can absorb some of the energy of a blow, and its stiffness can help to distribute a blow's forces over a greater surface area. Both of these factors help to lessen the total amount of force that any one tooth is subjected to, and therefore lessen the likelihood that chipping, breaking or dislodgement will occur. Wearing a mouth guard is an important precaution for athletes of all ages and abilities. They help safeguard against serious injuries such as jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhaging, concussions and neck injuries. By keeping soft tissue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, mouth guards also help prevent cutting and bruising of the lips, tongue and cheeks. There are 3 types of mouth guards available: Custom-fitted: These are made by your dentist for you personally. They are more expensive than the other versions, but because they are customized, usually offer the best fit. Stock: Inexpensive and pre-formed, these come ready to wear. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult. Boil and bite: These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods and drug stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in boiled water, then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. The participants of any type of contact sport should wear mouth protection. Football, boxing, ice hockey, roller hockey, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, soccer, basketball, water polo, martial arts and wrestling are all sports where facial injuries may happen. When it comes to protecting your mouth, a mouth guard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be part of your standard equipment.