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Protecting your smile - The use of mouthguards

The English have a bad enough reputation when it comes to their teeth without adding to this by participating in contact sport without a mouthguard. The American Dental Association in a 2007 survey showed injury risk to be 1.6-1.9 times higher for athletes who didn’t wear a mouthguard compared to those that did. Dental work can be expensive and prevention is always better than the cure but what types of mouthguard are available and what are their benefits? Two main categories of mouthguard exist; Boil and Bite or Custom Made. Boil and Bite mouthguards are the cheaper of the two options with prices typically ranging from around £5 to £20. They are simple to use as you simply heat the mouthguard until its pliable then mould to your teeth and mouth which then sets as the mouthguard cools down. These can offer varying levels of protection depending on quality of mouthguard and how well it is moulded to your mouth. The main benefit of a Boil and Bite mouthguard is that it provides an instant fit. Custom mouthguards, however, are more expensive and range between around £40 and £70. These are normally professionally made by a dentist and moulded around your teeth to ensure the best and most comfortable fit. As these are custom made, there can be a delay in receiving the mouthguard but they offer better overall protection for professional athletes involved in contact sports. Can mouthguards increase performance? Can mouthguards increase your performance however? The Citadel University in South Carolina conducted a study comparing 3 groups: A group wearing mouthguards A group not wearing mouthguards and breathing through their mouths And a group not wearing mouthguards and breathing through their noses It was shown that those wearing mouthguards inhaled more oxygen and retained less carbon dioxide through correct breathing than those not wearing mouthguards, leading to increased endurance. In addition to this, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning studied cortisol levels in those wearing mouthguards and those not when put through a workout. Decreased cortisol levels lead to increased performance and it was found that ten minutes post exercise; there was a 51% difference in cortisol levels with those not wearing a mouthguard having the higher levels. Mouthguards are an important part of contact sports and getting a properly fitted one should be a priority if you intend to regularly participate in sports. Brands such as `Shock Doctor` and `Opro` are well recognised and provide a good level of protection from the amateur to professional athlete. As well as protecting your mouth, we can also see that some evidence suggests mouthguards can actually improve your athletic performance and so finding and properly fitting your mouthguard can both protect your smile and give you an edge on the field.