Dental Safety for Young Athletes: Mouthguards

February is National Children's Dental Health Month! We wanted to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of mouthguards in safeguarding children's dental health. Wearing a mouthguard is a preventative, protective measure recommended for all contact sports participants by our Orchard of Smiles Orthodontics team. Children (and adults) who participate in contact sports such as boxing, football, hockey, basketball and lacrosse, soccer, baseball and field hockey should wear a mouthguard. A typical mouthguard is fabricated from a thermoplastic material and fits over the teeth when worn properly. It is essential and should be part of an athlete's mandatory gear from an early age on. Proper mouthguard wear can protect oral injuries to teeth, lips, cheeks and jaws. A mouthguard can help buffer an impact that can cause oral injuries and dental trauma such as cuts to lips, tongue or cheeks, broken teeth and jaw injuries. In addition to safeguarding athletes from oral injuries, mouthguards may minimize the severity of concussions.

There are 3 types of mouthguards:
  • stock mouthguard (ready made)
  • “boil and bite” mouthguard
  • custom mouthguard (fabricated by your dentist)
Although most coaches and parents do recommend wear of mouthguards, the wear of mouthguards is not always strictly enforced. As a result, many oral injuries occur such as broken and knocked out teeth and trauma to soft tissue. Furthermore, there are public misconceptions about mouthguard wear and the sports which pose the greatest risks to the mouth. According to a 2017 study conducted by American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), most parents were mostly concerned about dental injuries from football and hockey and wanted mouthguards required for football (83%) and hockey (76%). Fewer than half of parents supported mandating mouthguards for basketball (49%). However, a 2007 study published in the JADA (Journal of the American Dental Association) ranked basketball as the sport at the top of the dental injury list, with the highest rates of dental injuries for both men’s and women's college athletes. That is why our Orchard of Orthodontics team recommends wear of mouthguards while participating in all contact sports.

A mouthguard is one of the most inexpensive pieces of protective wear that an athlete can purchase. Remember, prevention is often key with mouth injuries. Prevention is the best route, especially when factoring the lifelong expenses of restoring or replacing missing teeth - which can be thousands of dollars. Frequently, parents and patients do not factor in the need for periodic replacements of the dental restorations subsequent to dental trauma, which tend to elevate the cost over one's lifetime. With orthodontic appliances such as braces in place, fitting a mouthguard may be more challenging. A custom lab fabricated mouthguard may be the right option for your athlete. However, if a custom mouthguard is not an option, you should discuss other options with your dental provider. So the next time your child plans to play a sport, think of prevention first and make a mouthguard part of his or her uniform! As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
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