6995875337_cdddf6350a_kWhen you see professional football players on TV, they’re almost always wearing a mouth guard, right? Of course, they are. It’s a high-intensity, contact-based sport played at a professional level. Plus, everyone on the field is making hundreds of thousands of dollars—they can’t risk one of their star players getting injured.

But most people see mouth guards as only necessary for the most dangerous of sports, or for the most athletic of players. Non-athletes, who play sports recreationally, often ignore the potential benefits of wearing a mouth guard, and end up putting themselves at risk of an injury.

So why, exactly, should you wear a mouth guard so often?

Why Mouth Guards Are So Important

The truth is, you should be wearing a mouth guard at all times, even if you’re not a professional, and regardless of what sport you actually play. Here’s why:

  1. Protection from tooth fractures. If you get hit by a moving player, or a ball, or the ground as you fall, and your teeth are struck in the right way, you could easily fracture a tooth. Sometimes, this can lead to excruciating pain, requiring immediate medical attention. Other times, the fracture is small and almost imperceptible—you won’t notice it until you go to chew something unusual and feel a bit of pain, and the injury will inevitably grow worse over time. Keep in mind these hits aren’t limited to any one sport—as long as you’re moving around, with other people and equipment in your vicinity, you’re at risk.

  2. Protection from tooth displacement and loss. If you’re hit hard enough, or if your teeth aren’t in especially healthy condition to begin with, you might end up displacing—or losing—a tooth. This constitutes a dental emergency, and you’ll need to recover the tooth and keep it cold while you make your way to the nearest dentist. A mouth guard will be able to prevent this from happening in all but the most extreme cases.

  3. Protection from jaw injuries (including fractures). Your teeth aren’t the only thing your mouth guard protects against—you’ll also reduce the chances of sustaining a jaw injury, including a jaw fracture or dislocation. Jaw injuries can be especially painful (and can interfere with your ability to eat), so don’t take the chance.

  4. Potential protection against concussions. Keep in mind that the evidence here is somewhat limited, but there is some evidence to support the idea that mouth guards could protect against the severity of concussions. No dedicated study has been able to prove this as a causational link, but every bit of added protection you can get matters.

Common Objections

So if these benefits can be instantly realized by wearing a mouth guard, why aren’t more people wearing them? These are some of the most common objections:

  • Comfort. Some people can’t stand the feel of a mouth guard in their mouths. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about this. Modern mouth guards are made of softer materials, and conform to your mouth specifically, so if you haven’t worn a mouth guard in several years, consider giving them another try.

  • Fashion. You may not like the way you look with a mouth guard, or feel embarrassed if you’re the only player on the team with a mouth guard. However, this isn’t a good argument against wearing one. It may not be especially pretty, but it will keep you safe on the field.

  • Convenience. Going out to buy a mouth guard, then prepping it to fit appropriately can be a hassle. Still, it’s going to take 20 to 30 minutes out of your day—at most—so try not to overestimate the potential time loss here.

  • Price. Finally, you may not wear a mouth guard simply because you don’t want to pay for it. It pays to be frugal, but mouth guards are only a few dollars each—and they’ll keep you protected against much more expensive dental injuries.

These are all relatively minor inconveniences and are usually exaggerated. If you play sports at all, regardless of what sport you’re playing or how intensely you play, you should have a mouth guard in at all times. Think of it as an insurance policy against the thousands of dollars you’ll spend and the pain you’ll experience if you suffer a significant oral injury.