Many times, by the time kids are actively participating in sports, their permanent teeth are coming in. In fact, dental injuries are the most common type or orofacial injury sustained during participation in sports according to the National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries.
Sports-related trauma to the teeth or bone areas of the mouth can have life-long effects. For example, kids who have their teeth knocked out who do not have teeth properly preserved or replanted may easily face lifetime dental costs of $15,000 – $20,000 or more per tooth, hours in the dentist’s chair, and the possible development of other dental problems, including periodontal disease. A properly fitting mouthguard can also help absorb certain sports-related impacts and mitigate concussions.
The good news is that mouthguards can be worn and prevent much of this damage. The American Dental Association estimates that mouthguards prevent approximately 200,000 injuries each year in high school and collegiate football alone. Another study found that in basketball, where mouthguards are not routinely worn, 34% of the injuries were orofacial.
Unfortunately, the word “mouthguard” is universal and generic, and includes a large range and variety of products, from “over the counter” models bought at the sporting goods stores to professionally manufactured and dentist-prescribed, custom-made mouthguards. Presently, over 90% of the mouthguards worn are of the variety bought at sporting good stores. The other 10% are of the custom made variety diagnosed and designed by a health professional (dentist and/or athletic trainer). By far, the best kind of mouthguards are custom-made mouthguards are supplied by a dentist. These provide better fit both before an impact and then at the time of impact, thus protecting the teeth better and preventing injury. The pricing of these can be all over the board, but our office offers a certain number of these free to our local youth sports program in an effort to help out those who are interested in this protection.
Kids routinely just chew on the mouthguards when they are between plays. As a result, the mouthguards can look like mangled sheets of plastic with little to no added protection for the player’s teeth and bone. Thus, parents should be diligent in checking the condition of this important piece of equipment.
Finally, you may have heard about the new types of performance enhancing mouthguards. Companies like Under Armour have teamed up with dentists to launch a line of mouth gear, which not only reduces the G-force impact of blows to the jaw by 20%, but also significantly improves strength, endurance, reaction time, and athletic stress.