Watch your mouth: the lowdown on mouthguards
Hawks forward Jack Gunston says he’d be lost on the footy field without his mouthguard.
“As soon as I started footy it was one of the first things along with my footy boots that my parents got me and ever since then I’ve always worn it and I feel lost without it,” says Gunston.
Wearing a mouthguard was something his parents drilled into him as a child, but his own experience playing in the big league has proved they were right.
“There’s numerous times I’ve been knocked in the head and it’s fallen out and you might see a little bit of blood in the mouthguard and you probably don’t think about it at the time but it could have been a lot worse and I could have lost a few teeth.”
“A lot of team mates have lost teeth out on the field," says Gunston. "You look at them after the game and they might look like your grandad or something like that, so for me it’s a no brainer to wear one.”
When Hawks legend Peter 'Huddo' Hudson AM first started playing, mouthguards were a relatively new phenomenon and not everyone wore them.
“I saw a few incidents where people have had their tooth knocked out and they’re trying to find their tooth on the field,” he says.
“I had the experience of receiving a blow to the mouth and my mouthguard would have flown about three metres away, but my teeth were quite okay,” he says. “So if ever I needed proof that a mouthguard was okay, that one incident made it all worthwhile.”
“My mouthguard was the most important thing when I packed my gear because if I’d got there and forgotten my shorts or something I could have got a replacement and with a mouthguard of course you can’t do that.”
Back then mouthguards were quite bulky, but Bupa Dentist Dr Joseph Badr says mouthguards have come a long way since then.
He recommends a custom-fitted mouthguard for the best protection.
“It’s important mouthguards fit all the teeth, have enough thickness and shock absorbent qualities as well as ensuring a proper fit as you don’t want a mouthguard to fly out, restrict breathing or speech - that’s why custom mouthguards are better than the stock mouthguards from sports stores.”
Dr Badr says mouthguards are important to protect the soft tissue of the mouth, the lips, the tongue and the teeth, even the jaw.
“We know how expensive damage to the teeth can be so it’s really important to invest in a mouthguard.”
It’s particularly important for children.
“We can’t put crowns on developing teeth, I have a number of patients with missing teeth and you can’t do any implants until the age of 20 or 21. As a result they have to wear a denture and it can be quite devastating and affect their self-esteem.”
Gunston says mouthguards aren’t only about protection, they’re also a fashion accessory for some players.
“There’s lot of colours out there so you can get whatever you want,” he says. “I know some of the indigenous boys get the indigenous flag on theirs and it’s a good way to represent something if you want to do that, I’m a bit more low-key and just go the normal white to try to make my teeth look a little whiter!”