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"Protect Your Mouth!" Says Mehrtens

27 March 2002
New Zealand Dental Association

All Black and Canterbury Crusader rugby player Andrew Mehrtens has an important message for all people playing contact sport - "Protect your mouth - wear a mouthguard".

He has come out in support of the New Zealand Dental Association who actively promotes the importance of mouthguards.

The Dental Association wants people to know that protective mouthguards will help prevent most teeth and jaw injuries as well as concussion.

Mouthguards are a "plastic" appliance, clear or coloured, and worn over the upper teeth. They shield the teeth in an impact situation by providing a cushion which gives protection when the jaws are driven hard together. Andrew has just had his most recent custom-made mouthguard fitted by Canterbury Rugby Union dentist Stephen Simmons and says he would never play rugby without it. "This is the type of mouth guard [custom made] I always use," he says.

There are two types of mouthguards available - the custom fit (made by a dentist) or the "boil and bite" variety which can be bought over the counter.

The New Zealand Dental Association strongly recommends a properly fitted custom fit mouthguard, as it these offers the best and safest protection. Custom fit mouthguards are formed under heat and pressure on a model of the jaw.

"This way it fits the individual's mouth, is the right thickness on the tooth surfaces and over the front of the teeth, and above all doesn't slip in the mouth. Also, when making a mouthguard, the dentist can check the mouth and teeth and be sure of the health and safety of the person who needs this protection," says President of the New Zealand Dental Association, Dr David Crum.

Preformed "boil and bite" mouthguards can be obtained from sports stores or chemists. These are a preformed rim of plastic, which are heated and adapted to the mouth by the wearer.

"Many people wear these types of mouthguards, but they can become loose, are generally less comfortable, are bulky and can lose the thickness needed to provide full protection," Dr Crum says.

Dr Crum says the long-term consequence of knocking or breaking a tooth can be considerable.
"Protection is so easy. All it takes is a mouthguard .... and it's great to have sports people such as Andrew Mehrtens prepared to reinforce this important message," he says.

Based on extensive research evidence, ACC recommends that anyone taking part in a contact sport to should wear a well-fitted mouthguard. The commission has statistics, which show clearly that in rugby and league, wearing a mouthguard prevents problems.

The New Zealand Dental Association recommends a good mouthguard should be of sufficient thickness in the correct areas, resilient, well retained and, comfortable and should not interfer with speaking and breathing. The NZDA recommends the following:
„h always wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports
„h a properly fitted, custom made mouthguard offers the best protection
„h ask your dentist about the best mouthguard for YOU
„h REMEMBER a broken tooth is damaged for LIFE


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