Due to the significant research and statistics in regards to dental sports injuries and their severity, it is imperative that the athlete, the parents, and the supporting organizations be fully informed of the best ways to stay protected while participating in sports.
According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, up to 39% of all dental injuries are sports related and nearly 80% of those affect the front teeth.
It has been estimated that the annual cost for all sports related pediatric orofacial injuries to be as high as 1.8 billion dollars.
Most mouthguards are of the “boil and bite” variety. However, dental literature and studies show that these types of guards consistently have poor fit, are unstable, and cause the athlete to clench their teeth together to hold them in place causing a restricted airflow. They are generally cut off in the back or the guard is chewed on, increasing the chances of injuries, especially concussion, from a blow to the chin.
The Academy of Sports Dentistry recommends the use of a properly fitted mouthguard and encourages the use of a custom fabricated mouthguard made over a dental cast and delivered under the supervision of a dentist.
It is important to note that it is not just contact sports that benefit from proper mouthpiece protection. This year we have seen several soccer and basketball injuries to the mouth as well as baseball injuries. A proper mouthpiece is not just for football.
Do they help with concussions? A recent study in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry called “ Role of Mouthguards in Reducing Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion in High School Football Athletes” suggests that a custom made, properly fitted mouthguard may reduce the injury of sports related concussions.
The researchers concluded that “custom made, properly fitted, pressure laminated mouthguards with more than 3 mm thickness in the posterior occlusal area statistically reduced the incidence of MTBI/concussion injury when compared to over the counter mouthguards.
Additional research is needed for sure, but this study is a significant step in the right direction.
Given the prominence of sports in society, the dental team must be aware of the advances in sports dentistry in terms of products as well as preparation for emergency based care.
As a member of the Academy for Sports Dentistry we keep abreast of the latest developments for athletes in regards to the role the mouth plays in health, its protection, and handling of traumatic sports related injuries. If you would like more information on a specific topic, send us an e mail and I am happy to share articles or references. I have been able to create bulk purchasing of professional mouthpieces for teams to get the costs down to very affordable rates. So, if your school or coaches would like more information, just let us know.