Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s department of Sports Medicine estimates that up to 25 million children and adolescents participate in competitive sports. A staggering 36 percent of all unintentional injuries to these active youths are sustained when participating in these activities, with nearly 20 percent of those injuries involving the face, jaws, and teeth, according to the American Dental Association.
The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports that dental injuries are the most common type of facial injury that athletes experience while playing sports. Athletes who do not wear protective mouthguards are 60 times more at risk for injuries to the teeth.
Types of Dental Injuries
Damage to the teeth falls into three general categories:
Fracture: a broken or chipped tooth, or a fracture in the root.
Avulsion: the entire tooth, and its root, is dislodged.
Luxation: the tooth remains in the socket but is pushed back or pulled forward, displaced out of normal alignment.
All of these injuries require immediate dental attention in order for the tooth to be saved. Experts recommend receiving dental care within two hours of the injury. Dental injuries can be prevented with the use of a properly fitted, custom mouthguard. Along with reducing dental trauma, mouthguards may also help prevent concussions.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Aside from the obvious risks to teeth that contact and collision sports such as boxing, wrestling, hockey, soccer, basketball, and football pose, the American Dental Association suggests that mouthguards be worn in non-contact, competitive, or recreational activities, such as gymnastics, skateboarding, skating, handball, and surfing. Additional sports for which the ADA recommends mouthguard use include squash, martial arts, skydiving, volleyball, and water polo. Other experts add baseball and softball infielders to that list.
It is safe to say that all athletes and other individuals participating in sports and recreational activities that contain a chance of injury to the teeth, jaws, or oral soft tissues, or that pose the risk of concussion, benefit from the protection offered by a mouthguard. With the proper fit, athletic performance will not be hampered in any way.
Selecting a Mouth Guard
Studies consistently show that mouthguards offer significant protection against sports-related injuries to the teeth and soft tissue by providing a protective surface that helps to dissipate traumatic blows and strong forces on impact.
Mouthguard options include:
Stock, ready-made mouthguard
“Boil and bite,” mouth-formed mouthguard
Customized mouthguard made by a dentist
Each of these provides some protection, according to the American Dental Association, as long as it is comfortable, properly fit, tear-resistant, durable, and resilient. A mouthguard should be easy to clean and should not interfere with an athlete’s ability to speak or breathe.
The Academy for Sports Dentistry maintains that an educated and supportive coach is a valuable mouthguard advocate. Both coaches and athletes alike must be reassured that the use of a mouthguard will not interfere with athletic performance.
For maximal results in achieving the proper fit that results in full compliance (wearing at all times) by the athlete, the Academy for Sports Dentistry maintains that a mouthguard should be fitted by a dental professional using a dental cast of the athlete’s teeth. This allows the dentist to customize the appliance to both the athlete’s mouth and the sport-specific risk of injuries. The Academy for Sports Dentistry does not believe that over-the-counter mouthguards offer athletes sufficient protection and recommends consultation with an informed dental professional.
As the official dentist for the CU Athletic Department, Dr. Friedman and the staff at Lafayette Dental Excellence know how to protect athletes’ mouths!