Because of technological advances, braces today work faster and are more comfortable and inconspicuous than ever before. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t have to alter your behavior somewhat while in treatment. Certain foods like hard nuts or sticky caramel are best avoided while wearing braces. Likewise, when playing sports, you should be a little more careful than you might normally be. You have to protect your teeth from impacts and shocks. Otherwise, brackets can pop off or cut the insides of your mouth, and severed wires can cause even more damage.
Contact sports, in particular, require caution. Luckily, many of these sports already require helmets with full-facial guards as part of their standard equipment. A full-facial guard is the hard plastic piece that juts out in front of the mouth and protects the face from a direct impact of a ball or the body of another player, and if you play football, ice hockey, or lacrosse, you already wear one. For many sports that don’t require full-facial guards, you are still highly encouraged to wear one if you have braces (and it’s a good idea to wear one in general). For example, sporting goods stores sell face guards designed especially for softball players. If you’ve ever been smacked in the face by a softball, you’ll know that they really aren’t all that soft. And similarly in baseball, face masks aren’t just for catchers. Other players can wear face guards too.
While a full-facial guard will provide broad protection from external forces, hard impacts and tackles can still cause injuries on the insides of your mouth. Mouth guards are the next line of defense against damage to your braces. They are particularly important in sports where full-facial guards would be out of place but where your braces are vulnerable to damage. This can be anything from basketball to soccer to gymnastics and tennis. Mouth guards are worn on inside your mouth to fit directly over your upper teeth, while dual-arch models also protect lower teeth.
Mouth guards are widely available at sporting goods stores, but they aren’t all the same. The “boil-and-bite” types are not recommended, because they can stick to brackets and pull them off when the guard is taken out of your mouth. Also be careful of guards that are designed to conform to your bite. After all, your bite will not stay the same while you’re in orthodontic treatment. A company called Shock Doctors makes a good line of mouth guards specifically made for athletes who wear braces. PacificWest Dental can make customized orthodontic mouth guards too.
Another way to protect your mouth from lacerations when playing sports is by using dental wax. OrthoSil Silicone Dental Wax is a good brand (which is really made of silicone). You can also try products made from actual wax or experiment with different brands to find one you like.
If you’re an athlete, wearing braces doesn’t mean you have to be stuck on the bench. Feel free to talk to Dr. Wang about the sports you play and what specific recommendations he has for you.