While sports are a great way to stay in shape, they can be a danger to your teeth says Santa Ana dentist, Dr. Danial Kalantari of Smiles on Bristol Dentistry.  Sports have a high rate of contact either between objects or with other people.  One wrong strike can cause permanent damage to the teeth that requires costly procedures to fix.  Fortunately, there are a few ways to help keep teeth safe.


Proper nutrition can help to keep teeth strong and more resistant to contact.  Tooth enamel is made of phosphorus and calcium, so a diet rich in those nutrients will keep the enamel strong.  Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium.  Including vitamin D with your intake of calcium will make taking calcium more effective.  Foods low in acids and high in nutrients like dark, leafy vegetables will keep your body strong and will prevent tooth damage.  As an athlete, water is already an essential.  Not only does staying hydrated keep your body in top shape for working out, but it helps protect teeth as well.  Drinking enough water helps promote saliva production which keeps the mouth at a proper pH level and is essential in repairing tooth decay.  Water does not have any bacteria-feeding sugar like most sports drinks.  It can also help to rinse away sugar and food particles from the mouth after eating or drinking to limit any negative effects.

Nutrition can only do so much, however.  For physical protection, mouth guards are recommended.  There are a few different types of mouth guards on the market.  The first and the cheapest are generic store-bought mouth guards.  These guards have generic sizes and shapes to generally fit patient mouths.  They provide some protection but are not generally recommended as they have a number of downsides.  Due to their generic nature, they can be ill-fitting.  This can cause discomfort and can even make speaking and breathing difficult.

Another type of store-bought mouth guard is specially design to react to heat and must be boiled.  Once the plastic has softened from the heat, they can be placed into the mouth and adjusted for a personalized fit.  They are fairly straight forward and provide better protection than the generic store mouth guards.  The personalized fit makes them more comfortable.

The best type of mouth guard comes from your dentist.  They will specially create a mouth guard for you using a mold of your teeth.  It is the most customized of the mouth guards and affords the most comfort and best protection.  It is also the most expensive option, but well worth it.  Sports with limited contact may not need such high-quality protection, but sports like football, basketball, and hockey involve a great amount of contact and require greater protection.  These mouth guards are also the best for people with braces.  The dentist will ensure that the mouth guard can accommodate the braces in a safe and comfortable manner.

Most mouth guards are only fitted to the upper teeth which are more prone to damage from contact than the lower teeth.  Under certain circumstances, a dentist may recommend a mouth guard for the lower teeth as well.  A lower mouth guard may be necessary for patients with braces or other dental appliances.  Check with your dentist for personal recommendations on mouth guards and to make sure current mouth guards are effective.  Santa Ana dentist, Dr. Kalantari, is happy to help any patient looking to better protect their teeth.  He will work with you to find the best option for your activity and budget.

Mouth guards are helpful for people in sports like football, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, and more.  Sports like gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer, martial arts, and volleyball can also involve potentially dangerous situations that would benefit from mouth guards.  Activities like mountain biking, skateboarding, dodgeball, parkour, and horseback riding could also require a mouth guard for protection.

Taking proper care of your mouth guard is very important as well.  Because the mouth guard will be going in your mouth, it must be kept clean otherwise it can increase your risk of infection or tooth decay.  Make sure to brush your teeth before putting a mouth guard into your mouth so that it does not trap in any food particles and so the mouth guard does not collect any food and grime.

Mouth guards can be cleaned with toothpaste and a tooth brush just like your teeth.  Make especially sure to use a non-whitening toothpaste.  Whitening toothpastes often contain harsh abrasives to try to remove tooth stains.  These abrasives can damage the plastic of the mouth guard, making it weaker.  There are some non-whitening toothpastes that can also be very abrasive.  A great way to check whether your toothpaste is gentle enough for your mouth guard is to squeeze out a little bit onto your thumb.  Rub the toothpaste between your thumb and finger and see if you can feel noticeable grittiness.  Toothpastes that feel smooth are the goal.

Most mouth guards can also be rinsed with mouthwash which will kill bacteria and make the mouth guard taste fresh and clean.  Make sure the mouthwash sits for the recommended time on the mouth guard to kill a sufficient amount of bacteria.  Then rinse the mouth guard well with warm water.  Mouthwash is very acidic.  It is not good to let it sit in the mouth pressed against the teeth as it is in a mouth guard.  Rinsing with warm water will remove the mouthwash while still leaving it smelling and tasting fresh.

Mouth guards can also be cleaned with mild soap and water.  This is a great way to kill bacteria.  Washing your mouth guard with soap and water is recommended for every time you take out the mouth guard for the day.  It will help prevent bacteria and mold from growing on the mouth guard.  The mouth guard should be rinsed well after cleaning to remove any soap residue before the next use.

There are also tablets and powders made to specifically clean oral devices.  The most common type of tablets are for cleaning dentures but there are a few brands that make tablets specifically designed to clean mouth guards.  To use these tablets, get a cup or bowl of water and add a tablet.  Once the tablet has dissolved completely, you can drop the mouth guard into the water and let it soak.  This method cleans off residue, bacteria, and stains.  Again the mouth guard should be rinsed in clean water after it has soaked with the dental cleaner.