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JBSA News
NEWS | Oct. 28, 2010

Mouth guards are easy, replacing teeth nothing to smile about

By Brian McGloin 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B public affairs

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then a mouth guard can keep broken teeth and concussions away.

Mouth guards work do more than preventing chipped teeth, they work in two main ways to prevent injury.

First, they prevent the teeth from banging together from a fall or impact, preventing tooth and bone damage as well as preventing a concussion from this type of injury.

"Mouth guards work by absorbing the shock of a direct impact and collision and spreads the force over the entire mouth or jaw," said Dr. (Maj.) Daniel Palazzolo, chief of periodontics, 359th Dental Squadron.

Second, they reduce or prevent injury from direct impacts to the mouth and jaw from direct impact.

"Anyone who participates in a sport that carries a significant risk of injury should wear a mouth protector," the American Dental Association's Web site said. "This includes a wide range of sports like football, hockey, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and volleyball."

Dr. Palazzolo said because of the Air Force's physical training requirements Airmen should have mouth guards, especially if they participate in games like basketball with elbows and other contact.

"Accidents can happen during any physical activity," the ADA warns. "A mouth protector can help cushion a blow to the face that otherwise might result in an injury to the mouth. A misdirected elbow in a one-on-one basketball game or a spill off a bicycle can leave you with chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss. A mouth protector can limit the risk of such injuries as well as protect the soft tissues of your tongue, lips and cheek lining."

Dr. Palazzolo said there are three different types of mouth guards commonly available: stock mouth guards, "boil and bite" mouth guards and custom-fitted mouth guards.

"Stock mouth guards are available at most sporting goods stores," Dr. Palazzolo said. "They are not form fitted and are bulky. They also may interfere with speech and breathing."

He said they may not be effective because they move around. A better option is the "boil and bite" types of mouth guards.

"The boil and bite mouth guards are also available at most sporting goods stores," Dr. Palazzolo said. "The wearer must soften the mouth guard by placing it in boiling water and then bite down on the material. This type of mouth guards offers a better fit and more protection than a stock mouth guard."

The wearer should follow manufacturer's instructions for the best fit and use.

Dr. Palazzolo said the custom-fitted mouth guards are the best option and are made at dental clinics on base. They require two short dental clinic visits for proper sizing and fitting.

He said custom-fitted mouth guards can be trimmed to keep any bulk to a minimum, especially for patients who have a sensitive gag reflex. Custom-fitted mouth guards offer the best protection, fit and comfort without interfering with speech or breathing.

"If you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well," the ADA said.

"A properly fitted mouth protector will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe, the ADA said."