The National Youth Sports Foundation reports that injuries to the teeth are the most common type of orofacial injury to occur during sports participation. In addition, the American Dental Association reports that 10-20 percent of all sports-related injuries are injuries to the mouth. Those injuries account for a lot of dental damage that could have been avoided with the use of a mouthguard.
When it comes to mouth guards, football and ice hockey are two sports that typically come to mind. While these are sports that usually require mouthguards, they are not the only time mouthguards can make a difference. Children and adults that participate in any sport where there is any risk of mouth injury should consider mouthguards as part of their regular equipment.
Let’s take a look at how and why mouthguards can really make a difference.
How Do Mouthguards Make a Difference and Why Aren’t They More Common?
Mouthguards work by providing a cushion in the mouth. This cushion helps to minimize the risk of broken teeth as well as injuries to the lips, tongue, face, and jaw. But unfortunately, many athletes find them annoying or uncomfortable and choose not to wear them, despite knowing how they help. At the same time, while dentists have pushed good oral care and hygiene to prevent dental decay and loss, mouthguard promotion has been lacking and many athletes do not know enough about their benefits.
Sports participation has greatly increased over the years and, as a result, so has facial and dental injuries. All sports and recreational activities pose a risk for dental injury, but this is especially true of contact sports. And the frequent occurrence of dental trauma during sports sparked a new dental specialty, sports dentistry. Many studies, like this review from 2015, point to the evidence that a mouth guard use greatly reduces the risk of dental injuries.
Another study from 2002 looked at 70,936 Division I college basketball players, their use of mouthguards, and their injury rates. Only 8663 players used mouthguards, but they all showed significantly lower rates of dental injuries throughout the season than those that did not wear mouthguards.
A 2018 systemic review shows the best evidence that mouthguards really make a difference when it comes to dental injuries. They showed the prevalence of dental trauma in mouthguard users was 7.5 to 7.75 percent compared to 48.31-59.98 percent of non-users. In addition, mouthguard users were between 82 and 93 percent less likely to suffer dentofacial injuries.
High-Risk Sports Often Require Mouthguards
Mouthguards are typically required or recommended for all contact and collision sports. The American Dental Association emphasizes the importance of safety when it comes to sports and your dental health, promoting the use of fitted mouthguards during all sport and recreational activity, especially when contact is possible. They advocate for the use of mouthguards with the following contact sports:
- Hockey (Ice and Field)
- Martial Arts
- Water Polo
The American Dental Association also promotes the use of mouthguards in limited-contact sports such as:
- Equestrian Events
- Field Events
- In-Line Skating
- Extreme Sports
While this may seem like a long list, the truth is this is really just the beginning, especially for children. As children learn a sport, they are bound to have injuries or accidents as they improve their skills. For example, a child learning baseball for the first time may put too much confidence in the glove and take a ball to the mouth. Wearing a guard will help protect their teeth when this occurs.
Start at a Young Age and Protect Growing Teeth
Experts recommend starting children at a young age with mouthguards whenever they participate in sports or recreational activities. This gets them used to using a mouthguard early, making them more likely to wear them as they grow and their permanent teeth take root.
While custom-fit mouthguards may seem expensive for young kids, the truth is they are far less expensive than the cost of dental work that can occur without them. Getting used to a custom guard early will help protect teeth as they grow and make them more likely to use them when their permanent teeth are in place. Visit SportingSmiles for more information.
In addition, if your child is undergoing orthodontic care, protecting those braces and the investment in the smile is essential. Mouthguards can be made to cover and protect braces as well as the teeth.
Types of Mouthguards Available
When it comes to mouthguards, there are three main types: stock guards, bite-and-boil, and custom-fitted. Let’s take a closer look at each type.
- Stock Guards – You can purchase stock guards off the shelf at your local sporting goods store. While these are an inexpensive and quick option, they are also one reason many people shy away from mouthguards. With a one-size-fits-all model, they can be bulking and uncomfortable for the athlete to wear.
- Bite-and-Boil – These mouthguards are also available at your local sporting good store but offer some form of customization. The guard is placed in hot water to soften the material and then you bite down into it, allowing it to form to your bite.
- Custom-Fitted Mouth Guards – These guards are created from a mold of your teeth and provide the best fit and comfort. Custom mouth guards can be created by your dentist or through SportingSmiles and our patented self-impression kit. Our custom-fit mouthguards are made the same as those from your dental office but don’t require a costly dental visit. For more information, visit HERE.
Mouthguards should be thought of as an essential piece of an athlete’s uniform and all athletes should be encouraged to wear them. No one wants to lose a tooth and mouthguards are the best way to keep those teeth safe. Visit SportingSmiles today to learn more about custom mouthguards and keeping your smile safe!