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Mouthguards aren't just for contact sports anymore

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

More uses for mouthguards

If you think mouthguards are only necessary in contact sports to ensure your pearly whites stay put, think again. According to board-certified periodontist Dr. Nicholas Toscano, all athletes can benefit from wearing a mouthguard during their workout. He shares his reasons with SheKnows.
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More uses for mouthguards

If you think mouthguards are only necessary in contact sports to ensure your pearly whites stay put, think again. According to board-certified periodontist Dr. Nicholas Toscano, all athletes can benefit from wearing a mouthguard during their workout. He shares his reasons with SheKnows.

The many uses of mouthguards

We see everyone from football players to basketball players to boxers wearing mouthguards, but what about the rest of us? Anyone who works out or does any kind of physical activity can benefit, Toscano tells us. Wearing a mouthguard can relieve orofacial pain, which starts in the muscles of the face and radiates through the head, neck and shoulders, and is common among everyone from competitive athletes to people who work out more casually, but, he explains, it can also benefit athletic performance.

What are the benefits of mouthguards?

Recent studies published in the July/August issue of Compendium, a peer-reviewed dental journal, have shown that the use of a mouthguard during any athletic activity not only minimizes pain, but also provides the following benefits:

  • Increased muscular endurance
  • Less lactic acid buildup in the muscles, which means less cramping
  • Decreased buildup of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Improved reaction time

"This news is absolutely exciting and something all athletes should be aware of, no matter what level of performance they strive for," says Toscano. "Whether you've got a competitive streak or you are hoping to commit to a fitness routine for the first time, using a mouthguard might help you reach your physical fitness goals."

Pain relief with mouthguards

Toscano knows firsthand how mouthguards can help more than just people playing contact sports. "During my 13-year career in the United States Navy, I treated many orofacial pain patients whose pain was severe and the result of muscle fatigue," he says, adding that the solution they found was surprisingly uncomplicated. "One of the most common and effective ways we treated these patients was with mouthguards to prevent patients from clenching their teeth and overworking their muscles," the periodontist explains. "The result was reduced muscle fatigue and pain throughout their body, and improved overall performance."

Do you need a mouthguard?

Mouthguards are useful for any physical activity, Toscano says. During contact sports they can protect your teeth from injury. They're also useful while you work out and lift weights because many people tend to clench and grind their teeth, resulting in tooth wear, and muscle pain and fatigue. Wearing a mouthguard helps protect against that damage and discomfort. If you want to try out a mouthguard, it should be professionally made by your dentist, Toscano says. "Over-the-counter mouthguards can throw off one's bite, resulting in orthodontic issues and crooked teeth if not made correctly," he explains.

And once you do have a mouthguard, remember to use it. "The general rule is if you have a mouthguard, wear it. It won't protect your teeth and muscles if you leave it at home in your drawer."

More about oral health

Expert tips for getting the smile you want
What your mouth says about your health
Teeth grinding: More than an audible nuisance

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