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Sports and Braces: The Right Mouthguard Matters

When it comes to protecting our kids’ teeth, sports can be a tough opponent. And when those kids are wearing braces, parents are also keen to protect that expensive investment. So what are the braces restrictions we as parents need to worry about? We asked Dr. Philip Bomeli, orthodontist and founder of Solon Orthodontics, for his professional opinion on what restrictions, if any, we should place on our sports-loving, braces-wearing teens.

Q: Are there any sports or activities that should be restricted if our kids wear braces?  

Bomeli: We certainly don’t want anyone to stop whatever sport they’re playing once they get braces. It’s an important part of life being on a team, so we just need to make sure they have the right kind of protection for their mouth. While any kind of mouthguard you use will seem inherently bulkier with braces, it’s still super important to wear one.

Q: Is there a special kind of mouthguard they should or shouldn’t use?

Bomeli You can’t use the boil and bite ones for two reasons. First, what we’re doing with braces is moving your teeth, so within days of making the mouthguard, it won’t be the right shape for them. Second, the boil and bite ones can adhere too well to the braces and wires and pull things off, causing damage. Instead, we recommend a flat, plain mouthpiece that covers both the top front teeth and bottom front teeth and fits easily between the braces and the lips. Most kids love them, and they do a good job. We’ve had some cases where the combination of the braces and the mouthguard actually kept someone from losing a tooth as a result of an injury.

Q: What if they’re provided with a mouthguard they are told to use?

Bomeli: It’s a good idea to come in for a quick checkup to have their orthodontist take a look at it to make sure it will work for them. If not, the orthodontist should be able to recommend or provide one that will do a better job of protecting their mouth. You want your kid to be protected, but also you’re making a big investment in those braces, so you want to make sure they don’t get damaged. 

Q: Are there any sports that are particularly prone to injuries that can affect orthodontia?

Bomeli: Basketball is one where we might see more soft tissue injuries to the mouth because it’s not always mandatory for them to wear the mouthguard. Also, sometimes with volleyball—those elbows can be vicious. I don’t see too many football or lacrosse injuries because it’s mandated that they wear a mouthguard to play. 

Q: If they don’t have braces yet, and you know they are planning to play a contact sport, is there a different type of braces you should consider rather than traditional braces? 

Bomeli: We really look at it on a case-by-case basis. Clear aligners are great, but they don’t necessarily work for every patient. If they are a good candidate for either braces or Invisalign, the sport might then dictate which one makes more sense for them.

Jennifer Proe

Jennifer Proe is a writer and editor with Your Teen Magazine. 

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