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Aligners and contact sports

As an athlete, or even a weekend-warrior, you have a lot on your mind when you're on the field or court. You're thinking about your opponent's next move, memorizing plays and doing everything you can to win. You don't want your teeth or aligners taking up valuable thought space as you play.

If you're new to wearing aligners while playing sports, you might question how to successfully navigate this task. You may wonder if you can play rugby with aligners, or if you should wear a mouthguard over your aligners. Balancing contact sports and aligners doesn't have to be tricky, though!



Aligners versus Braces

If you're choosing a teeth-straightening solution, you have a few options. Metal braces are traditional, but if you're an athlete, whether a teenager or an adult, you might want to consider Invisalign or other clear aligners. These solutions give you a discreet way to straighten your smile, boosting your confidence on and off the field or court. 

Aligners are also a more convenient option for athletes. You can easily remove your trays if you need to before practicing or playing a game. You also eliminate the need for emergency visits to the dental practice. Metal braces can become damaged after a forceful impact during contact sports. You'ld have to go to the clinic for emergency repairs to ensure your braces are working to adjust your teeth correctly. That wastes valuable time and money. With aligners, you won't have to worry about emergency replacements, as long as you're careful when you wear them.



What sports should you remove your aligners for?

Some contact and high-impact sports can jostle you around, putting your smile and aligners at risk. If you try playing certain sports while wearing Invisalign, you risk breaking your aligners after a forceful impact. You don't want to break a piece of expensive dental equipment just because you kept them on during a particularly rough game.

Whether you should remove your aligners will depend on the intensity of your sport, but you may want to avoid wearing your aligners while participating in the following:

  • Boxing
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial arts
  • Polo
  • Rugby
  • Wrestling

Many of those sports may require mouthguards and gum shields, anyway. Even if they don't, you should still take care to remove your aligners before playing.


What sports can I play with Aligners in?

Light and no-contact sports (or training) don't pose as much of a threat to your aligners as high-impact sports. There are some cases where you might be able to keep your aligners in as you play or practice. 

The key thing is to stay hydrated! If you are dehydrated your saliva levels will drop and this loss of lubricating fluid can make your aligners more uncomfortable. Unless you're a professional athelete, you can probably stick to water rather than sports drinks so you dont have to worry about sugery liquids getting underneath your aligners - I'm talking to you my lycra-wearing cyclist friends! 

Athletes participating in these sports can consider leaving their aligners in:

  • Basketball
  • Cycling
  • Gymnastics
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Volleyball

Of course, whether these or similar sports are light contact will depend on how you and others play. If you feel your friends might be a bit rough, consider leaving your aligners in the locker room. Or change friends. Or perhaps just get them before they get you.



What to do when wearing a mouthguard

If your contact sport requires a mouthguard or gum shields for safety, simply take your aligners out and store them properly before putting in the protective gear. Trying to wear your mouthguard and your aligners at the same time will create an improper fit. You risk discomfort or damaging your mouthguard or aligners, which are both expensive pieces of equipment. Fortunately for aligner users, it's much easier to swap trays for a mouthguard than it is to get a custom mouthguard to fit over metal or ceramic braces.


If you're tempted to try playing sports while wearing Invisalign instead of a sports guard, consider the risks. Your sport requires a mouthguard for a reason. And you're putting a lot of time, money and effort into straightening your smile with aligners. Forgoing your gum shields and mouth protection could damage your smile, putting you back to square one. So remove the aligners and put in your mouthguard to save your investment.


With a long game or practice scheduled, try to compensate for the amount of time your aligners spend out of your mouth. You should be wearing your aligners in your sleep to help you meet the 20-hour to 22-hour daily wear requirement. If you're playing sports that day and remove your aligners, avoid removing them as much as possible throughout the rest of the day.