Here at Orthodontics of South Miami, we often hear from parents and student athletes who worry that wearing braces will mean all sports have to be avoided. If you play sports for your school or community, you may be wondering if straightening your smile will have you watching from the sidelines throughout the treatment process. Fortunately, these fears are unfounded! You won’t have to choose between improved oral health and doing what you love out on the court or field, but you will have to take some extra precautions to ensure your teeth, mouth, and braces stay safe. Let’s explore how you can safely play sports in braces!
How to make braces and athletics work
It’s not uncommon for athletes to experience mouth and jaw injuries. These can happen at any time, even with protection, but taking extra precautions is important if you’re wearing braces. Because the brackets are affixed directly to your teeth, you’re at an increased risk of oral injuries if your mouth or braces are hit by the ball or another player.
Brackets and wires add an additional element to oral injuries. They can cut the inside of your mouth if you take a direct hit, and the components themselves can be damaged. We see plenty of bent wires and broken brackets in our practice! Some of the most common injuries we see with orthodontic patients who play sports are:
- lacerations to the cheeks, lips, and tongue
- chipped or broken teeth
- dislocation of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- root fractures
While none of these mouth injuries are life-threatening, they can be painful and costly to treat. This is why we recommend every patient use a mouthguard when participating in sports.
Protect your smile (and braces!) with an orthodontic mouthguard
Wearing a mouthguard is one of the simplest ways to protect your mouth and braces from sports-related injuries. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) has stated that wearing the right mouthguard can lower your chances of injury by almost twofold! But what’s the “right mouthguard”?
If you intend to play sports regularly while you’re in braces, we encourage you to look into getting an orthodontic mouthguard. These are specially designed to be used with braces, so the high-grade silicone cushions your lips and keeps them from bumping against your teeth and brackets. This cushioning also protects the brackets from any impact-related damage. These mouthguards can also stop your lips from getting caught in your braces (yes, it’s as painful as it sounds!)
Orthodontic mouthguards differ from regular mouthguards in that they provide extra space for your braces. They fit comfortably over your braces, teeth, and gums, so they’re a little bit bigger than most regular mouthguards, but still provide the same level of comfort and protection. Some models, including those made by popular brands like Shock Doctor and Tapout, are designed to adjust to the movements your teeth make during treatment. That means they allow re-molding multiple times as your new smile starts to take shape. Since they adjust based on your current bite, they’re an excellent choice for athletes who are straightening their teeth with braces.
Most orthodontic mouthguards can be found online or in most major sporting goods stores and come in both strapped and unstrapped styles. However, if you’d prefer to go through our practice, our doctors will be happy to recommend and order a mouthguard for you based on your specific needs.
While we strongly recommend an orthodontic mouthguard if you’re in braces, even a basic mouthguard will give you some protection from bleeding gums, broken brackets, or fractured teeth! This is especially important if regularly play contact sports like football, wrestling, and basketball, but we recommend them for low-impact sports or practices, too. Remember, it only takes a small amount of pressure on your braces to cause irritation or small abrasions to your gums and the inside of your cheeks.
What happens if an injury does occur?
Even if you’re wearing a mouthguard properly, oral injuries are still possible. If this does happen, it’s important to take care of it as soon as possible. Get in touch with your general dentist first so that he or she can diagnose any root or jaw bone fractures. Once you’ve been assessed for damage by your dentist, you should let our office know what’s happened so Dr. Ross or Dr. Rothenberg can determine if any part of your braces need to be replaced or repaired as well.
Stay in the game with Orthodontics of South Miami
Oral injuries of any kind can delay or negatively impact your orthodontic treatment and your overall health as well. Whether you’re a current braces patient or have braces on the horizon, be prepared by finding the right mouthguard for you! At Orthodontics of South Miami, we want to help you continue to do the things you love while you’re in braces, including sports. If you have any questions or concerns about how to safely play sports as a braces patient, get in touch with us anytime! We’ll be happy to walk you through your options and get your head back in the game with a smile on your face.