Sports and Your Teeth

An important part of being involved in sports is knowing how to protect your smile. Injuries are always possible when you are involved in sports and activities, and there are some precautions you can take to avoid injuring your mouth or jaw.


About Mouthguards

A well-fitting mouthguard is important in protecting your mouth an jaw during sports and other activities. They create a buffer in your mouth that can lessen then effect of an impact that can otherwise break teeth, injure your jaw, or cut the soft tissue in and around the mouth. You are 60 times more likely to injure your teeth when you are not wearing a mouthguard.

While they are most commonly used in contact sports, findings show that mouthguards can be helpful even in activities like gymnastics or skateboarding. The American Dental Association recommends wearing a mouthguard if you participate in any of the following activities:

  • Acrobatics
  • Basketball
  • Bicycling
  • Boxing
  • Equestrian events
  • Extreme sports
  • Field events
  • Field hockey
  • Football
  • Gymnastics
  • Handball
  • Ice hockey
  • Inline skating
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial arts
  • Racquetball
  • Rugby
  • Shotputting
  • Skateboarding
  • Skiing
  • Skydiving
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Squash
  • Surfing
  • Volleyball
  • Water polo
  • Weightlifting
  • Wrestling

Proper Fit

Your mouthguard should be:

  • Comfortable and well-fitting
  • Easy to clean
  • Resilient and tear resistant
  • Capable of allowing free breathing and speech

A custom mouth guard made by your dentist will provide the best protection for your mouth, but any mouth guard will be better than none. There are generally three kinds:

  • the ready-made, or stock, mouthguard;
  • the mouth-formed “boil-and-bite” mouthguard;
  • the custom-made mouthguard made by a dentist.

Choose the mouth guard that works best for you.

Mouthguard Care

  • Brush with toothbrush and toothpaste before and after each use, or at least rinse with water
  • On occasion, clean with cool soapy water and rinse thoroughly
  • While transporting, place in a firm, ventilated container
  • Keep out of sun and hot water
  • Replace when mouthguard starts to show wear

More About Mouthguards

  • If you have braces or issues with your bite, wear a custom-fitted mouthguard
  • Do not cut or chew your mouthguard
  • Wear it for practice as well as games
  • Don’t wear a mouthguard with dental appliances like retainers
  • Visit the dentist at the beginning of each playing season and bring your mouthguard to have it checked

Other Considerations for Sports


During sports, it’s important to take precautions to protect your orthodontics if you have them.

  • Always remove orthodontic appliances, such as retainers, before participating in activities – they can be damaged or cause choking or a mouth injury
  • Wear a custom-fitted mouthguard to protect your braces as well as your gums and teeth

Choking Hazards

  • Chewing gum during sports can lead to choking if you fall or are pushed, so don’t chew gum during sports
  • Chewing tobacco is always a bad idea because of the risks of oral cancer and gum disease, but during sports you add the risk of choking as well

Oral Piercings

Mouth jewelry can always pose problems, like infection and nerve damage, but are especially problematic during sports. Mouth jewelry can:

  • cause damage to teeth and gums during an impact
  • puncture internal organs if swallowed
  • get caught and tear lips and gums

Remove all mouth jewelry before any active sports to prevent these kinds of injuries.

Dental Emergencies

Here are some helpful tips for dealing with dental emergencies:

Knocked-out Tooth

A tooth that has been knocked out should be kept moist. If it is dirty, hold it by the crown and rinse the root in water. To avoid removing any tissue, do not scrub the tooth. Once cleaned, the tooth should be returned to the socket if possible. If not, store it in one of the following:

  • Emergency tooth preservation kit
  • Milk
  • Mouth (next to cheek)

Water with a pinch of salt (if none of the other choices are practical)
Visit the dentist as soon as possible to have the tooth replaced. Less than 30 minutes is ideal, but it is possible to save a tooth even after an hour or more.

Cracked or Broken Tooth

Clean the area by rinsing the mouth with warm water, and keep swelling down by putting a cold compress on the face. Visit the dentist as soon as possible.

Broken Jaw

Control swelling with a cold compress. Go to the emergency room as soon as possible.

Objects Stuck in Teeth

Never try to dislodge something stuck in your teeth with a sharp or pointed instrument. If the object cannot be removed with dental floss, visit your dentist for help.


Clean the mouth by rinsing with warm water and use dental floss to remove any food stuck in the teeth. Do not put aspirin directly on the tooth or gum tissues. Visit the dentist as soon as possible.

Bitten Lip or Tongue

Clean the area with a cloth and keep swelling down with a cold compress. If bleeding doesn’t stop in a short period, go to the emergency room or your dentist immediately.