Orthodontic Treatment for Athletes: What You Need to Know

Have you delayed straightening your teeth because you are dedicated to your sport and afraid orthodontic treatment would get in the way? It’s a natural reaction for athletes. You know the risks of injury, especially if you play a contact sport, and hesitate to add braces or aligners as one more thing to protect as you enjoy time on the field. 

We have good news! Sports and orthodontic devices can play well together, with some assistance from your orthodontist and quality protection for your mouth. In this article, we explore the world of orthodontic treatment for athletes and keeping the teeth properly protected.

Protecting Your Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment

The two most common methods today to straighten teeth are braces or clear aligners. Both are popular choices to correct misaligned teeth and jaw problems. No matter which you decide to use, your mouth and teeth must be protected. For athletes, this is even more true:

Protecting Your Teeth While Playing Sports

The place to begin is in your orthodontist’s office. Discuss your concerns and explain the realities of playing your particular sport. Share the following information with the orthodontist:

  • Is it a contact sport? 
  • Do players wear protective headgear while playing? 
  • Are hits to the mouth or face common?

The orthodontist will then have the information they need to guide you regarding what kind of device is best for you while you wear braces. It must reduce the damage that can happen if you are hit in the mouth. Many orthodontic emergencies, specifically injuries to the face and mouth, involve cuts to the lips, tongue, and cheeks from the metal of the braces. The metal and other parts of the braces can be bent or broken, too. 

Your orthodontist will explain the differences in what to do for different types of braces (ie. traditional braces versus lingual braces) and clear aligners while playing your sport. Here are the highlights:


Many sports require a mouthguard during play, but you will need a different mouthguard if you have braces. Orthodontic mouthguards fit over your braces, provide more cushion than a sports mouthguard, and are custom-made by your orthodontist. The material is silicone or some other flexible substance so the fit is comfortable.

You can buy “boil-and-bite” mouthguards in most sporting goods stores but they will not fit correctly over your braces. The unfortunate result if you are hit in the mouth may be loose or broken teeth and damaged braces. The extra cost for a custom-made mouthguard can pay for itself if that kind of damage happens.

Clear Aligners

There are many advantages to Invisalign or other clear aligners for straightening teeth. They are nearly invisible on your teeth and you aren’t dealing with metal in your mouth. And, there is less chance of injury from the brackets or wires if you are hit in the mouth or face during sports. 

However, clear aligners are designed to move teeth, not protect them from injury. You will still need a custom mouthguard to protect your teeth and jaw while you play. Remove the aligners, put them in a case so you don’t lose them, and put in the mouthguard your orthodontist makes for you.

Tips for Athletes During Orthodontic Treatment

Here are some additional tips for protecting your teeth during orthodontic treatment:

# 1 – Wear the Mouthguard Every Time

Wear the mouthguard! It’s not enough to have one made for you; you must use it, even if your league doesn’t require it. The one time you don’t use it might be the time you are hit in the mouth and suffer injury or damage to your braces.

# 2 – Keep the Mouthguard in a Case When Not in Use

Use the case for the mouthguard when you aren’t using it. Keep it out of direct sunlight and excessive heat. Also, use the case for your aligners when you are using the mouthguard. Make it a habit to store both properly to protect them from loss and damage.

# 3 – Keep Everything Clean

Keep your braces and mouthguard clean. It’s easy for bits of food to hide in your braces’ brackets, which can lead to the build-up of bacteria and then tooth decay. Don’t neglect the basic hygiene of either during your orthodontic treatment plan. The mouthguard should be cleaned according to your orthodontist’s instructions to keep unnecessary bacteria out of your mouth.

# 4 – Stay Hydrated (Without Adding Sugar)

Stay hydrated and keep sports drinks to a minimum. Sports drinks and similar products, like energy chews and gels, contain a great deal of sugar and are high in acid. Both can destroy tooth enamel, leading to cavities. If you have a sports drink or chew, brush your teeth as soon as possible. This will remove much of the damaging sugar and acids.

Drinking water instead eliminates these problems, plus the water works to rinse away the bacteria. Pick water over sports or energy drinks whenever possible to stay hydrated, too. Your body loses water through sweat on the sports field, so it’s up to you to replace the water quickly. 

# 5 – Don’t Keep Quiet About Pain or Injuries

Don’t suffer in silence! Talk to your coach about any injuries to the mouth or teeth even if they seem minor. Communicate with your orthodontist, too. Let them assess the situation and determine what action, if any, to take.

According to an article titled “Traumatic Dental Injuries In High School Athletes…”, the sports with the highest numbers of injuries to the teeth and face were rugby, basketball, handball, field hockey, and soccer. The article also reported that most of the dental injuries happened when the athlete didn’t wear a mouthguard. 

By following the tips outlined above, athletes can still play their game while achieving the goal of straightening their teeth.

Orthodontics and Sports Can Co-Exist Successfully

Athletes can have straight teeth and still enjoy playing their sport. A custom-made mouthguard protects the mouth from injury during contact sports, whether the athlete wears braces or uses clear aligners. And by following a few simple tips that we’ve covered above, the athlete can ensure their success both on the field and in getting the smile they deserve.

You don’t have to choose between achieving a beautifully aligned smile or playing the sports you love. Orthodontics doesn’t have to get in the way! Schedule your consultation with our team here at White Plains Orthodontics and explore treatment options designed for active lifestyles.

Contact us today to get in the game!