As a hockey player, it’s safe to say that you’re more than familiar with the risks that come along with playing a tough game on the ice. While helmets, padding, and face shields have become standard equipment for protecting players from injury, there’s one area that often gets overlooked: the mouth.
Your teeth may not seem like a high-priority target in the midst of all the physical contact happening on the ice, but the truth is that they’re at significant risk of being knocked out or otherwise damaged during gameplay. That’s why many players choose to wear mouth guards as part of their gear – but is this really necessary?
In this blog post, we’ll explore the topic of mouth guards in hockey and discuss their importance in protecting your teeth on the ice. We’ll take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of wearing a mouth guard during gameplay, as well as some tips on selecting the right one for your needs. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of whether or not a mouth guard should be a part of your hockey gear kit.
Why Mouth Guards Are Essential for Hockey Players
Protection for Teeth and Mouth
Hockey is an intense sport that requires players to move quickly, often colliding with other players or hitting the puck with their sticks. These sudden movements can sometimes lead to dangerous situations where a player’s teeth or mouth can be seriously injured.
This is why wearing a mouth guard is so important for hockey players. A mouth guard can protect a player’s teeth from being knocked out or broken, as well as preventing lacerations to the lips, tongue, and cheeks.
According to Dr. Alice M. Horowitz, a dental expert at the National Institutes of Health, “Mouth guards are designed to absorb the force of impact from a blow to the face or head, thereby reducing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues.”
A properly fitted mouth guard should cover all of the top teeth and fit snugly around them to prevent any slippage during gameplay. There are different types of mouth guards available on the market, including custom-made ones and boil-and-bite options that can be shaped to fit a player’s mouth.
Reduced Risk of Concussions
Concussions are a serious concern in ice hockey, especially when players collide with each other or get hit by a fast-moving puck. Symptoms of concussion include headaches, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
While wearing a mouth guard cannot completely eliminate the risk of concussions, it can reduce the severity of the impact and lower the chances of sustaining one. This is because a mouth guard can help absorb some of the shock to the jawbone and skull, which can lessen the likelihood of a concussion occurring.
A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that athletes who wore mouth guards had a lower incidence of concussions than those who did not wear them. The authors recommended that “all players should consider wearing properly fitted mouth guards to reduce the risk of injuries to their head and orofacial region.”
Better Breathing and Communication
A well-fitted mouth guard can also improve a player’s breathing and communication on the ice. This is because some mouth guards have perforations or ventilation channels that allow for better airflow, making it easier for players to breathe during gameplay.
Mouth guards can also prevent a player from biting down too hard on their teeth, which can lead to jaw pain and tension. By keeping the jaw relaxed, a mouth guard can help a player communicate more clearly with their teammates and coaches, improving overall team performance.
Increased Comfort and Confidence
Wearing a mouth guard can also provide hockey players with increased comfort and confidence while playing the game. A well-designed mouth guard should fit comfortably in a player’s mouth and not interfere with their speech or breathing.
In addition, knowing that they are protected from potential dental or facial injuries can give players peace of mind and a boost in self-confidence. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that “mouth guards may have a psychological impact on athlete’s feelings of safety and willingness to compete.”
Wearing a mouth guard is essential for hockey players looking to protect themselves from potential injuries and increase their overall comfort and confidence on the ice. Whether you choose a custom-made option or a boil-and-bite product, be sure to select a well-fitting and high-quality mouth guard that meets your individual needs.
“Mouth guards are essential for hockey players who want to stay safe and perform at their best. Properly fitted mouth guards can protect teeth, reduce the risk of concussions, improve breathing and communication, and increase comfort and confidence on the ice.” -Dr. Alice M. Horowitz
The Risks of Not Wearing a Mouth Guard in Hockey
When it comes to safety gear in hockey, mouth guards are often an afterthought. But the risks of not wearing a mouth guard can be serious and long-lasting.
Broken or Lost Teeth
One of the most immediate consequences of playing without a mouth guard is the risk of broken or lost teeth. A single high-impact collision with another player or the puck can easily knock out one or several teeth, causing permanent damage and requiring extensive dental work.
In fact, the American Dental Association reports that athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to suffer oral injuries compared to those who do wear them. Additionally, the estimated cost of replacing a single knocked-out tooth can range from $1,000 to $15,000, depending on the extent of the damage and necessary treatments.
Concussions and Brain Injuries
While losing teeth may seem like the worst-case scenario for most players, concussions and brain injuries represent a far greater threat to their health and well-being. Without proper protection, a direct hit to the jaw or head can result in a concussion, which can have lasting effects on cognitive function and overall quality of life.
This danger has been acknowledged by both the National Hockey League and USA Hockey, which now require mouth guards as part of their standard equipment recommendations. The NHL’s Chief Medical Officer referenced this policy when speaking about the league’s commitment to player safety: “The message we want all our players…and other people involved in hockey at any level to hear is: if you care about your own safety, and that of your teammates, then wear a mouthguard.”
Difficulty Breathing and Communicating
Mouth guards can also help to prevent issues with breathing or speaking during play. Without proper cushioning, a player’s mouth and jaw may experience excessive strain or trauma over time due to the physical demands of hockey.
According to a report from the Journal of Athletic Training, “Mouthguard use ensures coverage of sharp surfaces on teeth that could cause oral injury…Properly fitting mouthguards do not impede speech or respiration while worn.”
“Wearing a properly fitted mouthguard is an essential component to minimizing dental injuries in sports,” says Dr. Chris Salierno, President of the Foundation for Oral Health. “It takes very little effort on the part of the athlete to protect their smile and their brain-health concurrently.”
Wearing a mouth guard during hockey games and practices is critical to ensuring player safety and avoiding long-term damage and expenses. With so many excellent options available today, there’s no excuse not to make this simple but potentially life-changing investment in your health and well-being.
How to Choose the Right Mouth Guard for Hockey
Custom-Fit vs. Boil-and-Bite
Mouth guards are essential for hockey players as they protect their teeth, jaws, and gums from injuries. Therefore, selecting the right mouth guard is crucial. One of the primary considerations when choosing a mouth guard is deciding between custom-fit and boil-and-bite models.
A custom-fit mouth guard is designed specifically for a player’s mouth with the help of a dental professional. In contrast, boil-and-bite mouth guards can be molded at home by heating them in boiling water and then biting into them to achieve a fit that matches the player’s mouth. While custom-fit mouth guards provide superior protection and comfort, they come with a higher price tag than boil-and-bite models.
“If you invest in high-quality gear like a custom mouthpiece or helmet, it can save you a lot of pain and suffering later on.” -Zach Parise
Material and Thickness
The material and thickness of a mouth guard also play an important role in determining its effectiveness. Most mouth guards are made of three materials: polyurethane, ethylene vinyl acetate, and acrylic. Polyurethane offers the most protection but is less comfortable than other materials. Ethylene vinyl acetate is softer and more comfortable, but not as protective as polyurethane. Acrylic sits somewhere between these two materials’ properties.
In addition to material choice, the thickness of a mouth guard also impacts its performance. Thick mouth guards typically provide better shock absorption and protection against concussions. However, thicker mouth guards may inhibit clear speech and breathing ability, which can affect a player’s communication and endurance during the game.
“It’s always safe to wear a mouth guard when playing sports like basketball, but it’s especially important for contact sports like football and hockey.” -Ellie Kemper
Breathing and Communication Considerations
When playing a fast-paced game like hockey, athletes need clear speech and unobstructed breathing to communicate with their teammates effectively. Therefore, players also need to consider the breathing and communication aspect while selecting a mouthguard.
A properly fitted mouth shield should not make speaking or breathing difficult. However, thicker models can restrict these essential functions. A player may have difficulty communicating strategy adjustments to their team mid-game if they are struggling with enunciation issues because of a thick mouth guard. Similarly, if an athlete cannot breathe correctly due to inadequate airflow, they may tire earlier than necessary during the game, impacting their performance.
“Mouth guards and helmets don’t guarantee someone won’t get hurt, but they do lend protection to participants that most definitely reduces injuries.” -Elana Meyers Taylor
Cost and Durability
The cost and durability of a mouth guard are other pertinent factors that players must consider when purchasing one. While custom-fit mouthguards are more durable and offer higher-quality protection, they come at a hefty price tag. That said, boil-and-bite mouthguards may be less expensive initially; however, they typically require replacement more frequently because of their lower quality and materials.
Players often fall into the trap of using poorly maintained mouth guards that provide insufficient protection. Even though a new mouth guard may seem pricey, it is cheaper in the long run as compared to the expenses associated with treating dental trauma caused by inadequate mouth protection.
“For young children, simple behavioral measures such as wearing seat belts or bike helmets and engaging in physical activity research shows that almost all pediatric health behaviors are reinforced by school programs, but this is not true for mouth guards.” – David A. Nash
The right choice of mouth guard for hockey players depends on multiple factors like personal budget, overall comfort level while playing, and durability requirements. Undoubtedly, a well-fitted and correctly chosen mouthguard provides excellent protection and reduces the chances of dental or facial injuries resulting from hockey.
Proper Care and Maintenance of Hockey Mouth Guards
Hockey players wear mouth guards to prevent dental injuries during the game. However, simply wearing a mouth guard is not enough to ensure protection from injuries. Proper care and maintenance of the mouth guard are also essential for its effectiveness.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
After every use, hockey players must clean and sanitize their mouth guards to prevent bacterial growth. Rinse your mouth guard with cold water and brush it with toothpaste or mild soap. Do not use hot water as it may deform the mouth guard. You can also soak the mouth guard in an antiseptic solution like a hydrogen peroxide solution recommended by your dentist. Avoid using bleach-based solutions as they may damage the mouth guard.
“Simply washing the mouthguard under running water seems inadequate.” – The Journal of American Dental Association
If you notice any cracks or tears on the mouth guard while cleaning, discard it immediately and replace it with a new one as damaged mouth guards may cause injuries instead of preventing them.
Storage and Transport
Proper storage and transport are vital to keep the mouth guard safe and effective. After cleaning, let the mouth guard air dry completely and store it in a hard case to protect it from accidental damage or contact with other objects. Do not leave the mouth guard exposed to sunlight or heat sources as this may affect its shape and fit.
When transporting the mouth guard, make sure it is stored properly and securely to avoid losing or damaging it. Some players try to save space by storing their mouth guard in their pockets, but this should be avoided as it may transfer bacteria onto the mouth guard.
Replacing and Upgrading
Mouth guards have a limited lifespan, and you should replace them regularly to ensure their effectiveness. Depending on usage and care, a mouth guard may last between three months to a year. However, if the mouth guard shows signs of wear and tear like cracks, missing pieces or loose fit, it is time to get a new one.
If you need an upgrade, consider getting customized mouth guards built by dental professionals. Customized mouth guards offer better protection, comfort, and fit than store-bought mouth guards. You can also choose from different materials such as plastic, silicone, or laminated acrylic for your customized mouth guard.
Regular Dental Checkups
Hockey players are at high risk of dental injuries due to the physical nature of the game. Regular dental check-ups are essential to monitor any changes or damages to teeth and gums. During your dental check-up, let your dentist examine both your natural teeth and your mouth guard. Your dentist can advise you on proper care and maintenance for your mouth guard based on its condition and usage.
“Dental visits are critical in determining whether there has been any damage done to your teeth even when that initial fall or hit hasn’t pushed out any teeth.” – Dr. Amanda Sheehan, American Dental Association Spokesperson.
Hockey players must take proper care of their mouth guards to ensure their safety and effectiveness during the game. By following these guidelines on cleaning, storing, replacing, upgrading, and regular dental checkups, you can prevent dental injuries and enjoy playing the sport safely.
What to Do If You Lose a Tooth While Playing Hockey
Hockey is an exciting and high-energy sport, but it also involves contact with other players, the boards, and pucks. Due to this reason, there’s always a risk of getting injured during the game, and losing teeth is a common occurrence among hockey players. So what do you do if you lose one while playing? Here are some tips:
Stop Playing and Retrieve the Tooth
If your tooth gets knocked out completely, stop playing immediately and try to find it. The sooner you retrieve it, the better chances you have for successful re-implantation. Search around where the incident occurred and ask your teammates or coach for help in locating it.
Preserve the Tooth Properly
Once you find the tooth, preserve it properly to keep it alive until you can get medical attention. Handle the tooth carefully by touching only the crown (the part that shows when you smile) and avoid touching the root as much as possible. Try to put the tooth back into its socket yourself, being very gentle with it, but don’t force it in. If you cannot reinsert it, store it in milk or saline solution until you reach the dentist. Water should be avoided at all costs as it can damage the tooth cells and affect the chance of re-implantation.
Seek Immediate Dental Care
Time is crucial in saving a lost tooth, so seek immediate dental care once the accident occurs. An emergency dental clinic is usually available outside normal business hours, and they have experience dealing with such injuries. The sooner you receive treatment, the more likely it is that the tooth will heal successfully. Your dentist will examine and assess the injury and determine the proper course of action, which may include reimplantation, filling and/or crown placement, or complete removal if that is the only option.
Prevent Future Tooth Loss
While accidents can happen anytime, several precautions help prevent dental injuries during hockey games. One of them is wearing a mouthguard specifically designed for hockey players, which offers added protection to your teeth and jaw against hits and pucks. Custom-fit mouthguards from your dentist are the best option as they offer better comfort and fit. Additionally, avoiding reckless physical contact with other players and understanding the rules of the game can help lower the risk of injury.
“Mouthguards serve as an excellent protective gear in preventing tooth loss in hockey players, especially when custom-fitted by a dental professional.” -Dr. Michael Singer
Losing a tooth while playing hockey can be distressing and overwhelming but following these steps can increase the likelihood of successful treatment. Remember to remain calm, retrieve the tooth immediately after it falls out, store it properly, seek immediate dental care, and take preventive measures in the future to avoid similar incidents.
The Future of Hockey Mouth Guard Technology
Hockey players are known for their toughness and resilience, but the reality is that the sport can be dangerous. One common injury in hockey is dental trauma, which has led to the widespread use of mouth guards among players. However, advances in technology have led to the development of smarter, more advanced mouth guards that provide greater protection and comfort.
Smart Mouth Guards for Concussion Detection
Concussions are a major concern in contact sports like hockey, and early detection is critical to preventing further damage. Smart mouth guards are one of the latest innovations in concussion detection technology. These devices contain sensors that measure the force of impacts during play and can alert trainers or medical staff when a player may have suffered a head injury. According to a study published by the Journal of Athletic Training, smart mouth guards can accurately detect up to 90% of concussions that occur during games and practices.
“We’re able to see how many times an athlete gets hit from various directions and what forces are involved. It’s about understanding risk and making informed decisions about participating in different types of contact sports.” – Dr. Stefan Duma, founding director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Injury Biomechanics
This technology could revolutionize the way we monitor and treat concussions in sports. By detecting head injuries earlier, teams can ensure that players receive proper medical attention and reduce the risk of long-term brain damage. While these devices are currently only available for select college and professional teams, they may become more widely adopted as the technology continues to improve.
Advanced Materials for Better Protection and Comfort
Mouth guards have come a long way since their invention in the early 20th century. Today, manufacturers are using advanced materials like thermoplastic elastomer and medical-grade silicone to create mouth guards that are more durable, comfortable, and effective than ever before. These materials can withstand powerful impacts while still providing a custom fit for each individual user.
In addition to better protection and comfort, advanced materials are also making it easier for players to breathe and communicate on the ice. Special designs like airflow channels and flexible hinges have been incorporated into mouth guards to improve airflow and reduce jaw fatigue during games.
Customizable Designs for Individual Needs
No two mouths are alike, which is why customization is key when it comes to selecting a mouth guard. Custom-fit mouth guards provide better protection and comfort than generic mouth guards that come in different sizes. Fortunately, advances in technology have made it easier to create custom-fit mouth guards that take into account an individual player’s unique needs.
Digital scanning and 3D printing technology allow manufacturers to create precise molds of a player’s teeth, resulting in a completely customized fit. Additionally, players can choose from a wide range of colors, designs, and features to personalize their mouth guards and make them more comfortable to wear during games.
“Mouth guard design should consider factors such as dental structures, parent/guardian compliance, durability and safety of appliances”. – Dr. Andrew Chang, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry
This level of customization will likely become even more prevalent in the future, as new technologies emerge and players demand even greater levels of comfort and protection. As mouth guard technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more innovative advancements that keep athletes safe and enhance their performance on the ice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a mouth guard?
A mouth guard is a protective device that is worn over the teeth and gums to prevent injuries to the mouth, teeth, and jaw. It is typically made of a soft, flexible material that can absorb impact and protect against cuts, bruises, and fractures. Mouth guards are commonly used in contact sports like hockey, football, and boxing, but they can also be used during other activities where there is a risk of dental or facial injury.
Why do hockey players need to wear a mouth guard?
Hockey players need to wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth and mouth from injury during play. Hockey is a contact sport that involves a lot of physical contact and high-speed movement, which can increase the risk of dental and facial injuries. A mouth guard can help absorb the impact of a hit or fall and prevent teeth from being knocked out or broken. It can also protect the lips, tongue, and cheeks from being cut or bruised.
What are the benefits of wearing a mouth guard during hockey?
Wearing a mouth guard during hockey provides several benefits. It can prevent dental and facial injuries, such as broken or knocked out teeth, cuts, and bruises. It can also reduce the risk of concussions and other head injuries by absorbing impact and reducing the force of a hit. Additionally, wearing a mouth guard can improve breathing and reduce jaw pain and discomfort. It can also improve overall performance by providing a secure and comfortable fit that allows for clear communication and better focus.
What are the different types of mouth guards available for hockey players?
There are several types of mouth guards available for hockey players, including stock mouth guards, boil-and-bite mouth guards, and custom-fitted mouth guards. Stock mouth guards are pre-made and come in various sizes, while boil-and-bite mouth guards are softened in boiling water and then molded to the teeth for a more custom fit. Custom-fitted mouth guards are made by a dentist or dental professional and provide the best fit and protection. They are more expensive than other types but offer superior comfort and protection.
How do you properly clean and maintain a mouth guard?
To properly clean and maintain a mouth guard, it should be rinsed with cool water after each use and then brushed with a toothbrush and toothpaste. It should be stored in a clean, dry container and kept away from heat and direct sunlight. It is important to avoid using hot water or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the mouth guard and reduce its effectiveness. Additionally, mouth guards should be replaced every season or if they become damaged or worn.
Are there any safety regulations for mouth guards in hockey leagues?
Yes, there are safety regulations for mouth guards in hockey leagues. In most leagues, players are required to wear mouth guards that meet specific safety standards, such as those set by the American Dental Association. Mouth guards should be made of a durable, non-toxic material that can withstand impact and provide adequate protection. Additionally, mouth guards should fit properly and be comfortable to wear, as ill-fitting or uncomfortable mouth guards can interfere with breathing and communication and reduce their effectiveness.