There are benefits of mouth guards beyond protecting your teeth

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HOUSTON – The women's soccer team at the University of St. Thomas wore mouth guards for half of every game last year. They had never worn one before then, despite witnessing terrible accidents.

“I’ve had friends (who) had to have like jaws redone, facial reconstruction done,” Emma Pinkerton said.

“Like one of her teeth like chipped really bad,” Kathryne Padgett said.

According to Dr. Michael Miller with UT Health Center for Sports Dentistry, that doesn't have to happen. So, he gave a mouth guard to each player and measured their stats with and without one during each game.

He said seven of eight parameters were better while players were wearing a mouth guard.

“When the lower jaw is placed in harmony with the rest of the body, this will actually maximize somebody's performance," Miller said.

Meaning, the benefits don't just stop at dental health, and the girls claim they did, in fact, have a better season.

“I definitely think that my last season was one of my best seasons I’ve played," Pinkerton said. "I'm sure there's a lot of factors that go into that, but I definitely think having that mouth guard to help me out, helped a lot. I really like wearing the mouth guard because it kind of gave me that cushion where I could really dig in but I knew it wasn't going to damage anything.”

“Especially when you go up for headers, Padgett said. "That impact from like the ball -- it softens the impact and I think it just gives more confidence going in for like headers and tackles."

Miller said this confirmed his hypothesis that mouth guards give players confidence, and he's confident they’ll benefit any sport, no matter whether it's contact.

He prefers custom-made mouth guards but said boil-and-bite options don't have to be ruled out.

“They're certainly better than nothing, but it's very difficult to duplicate a custom mouth guard in an over-the-counter mouth guard,” he said.

The problem most people face with a custom-made mouth guard at the dentist is it can cost hundreds of dollars and a store-bought mouth guard is about $10.

Miller warns an injury to your teeth can cost you thousands of dollars attempting to repair the damage. 

The players from the University of St. Thomas said they will continue to wear the mouth guards in every game.