Submitted by Delta Dental of Washington.
Watching sports from the sidelines, you’re probably used to seeing mouthguards hanging out of athlete’s mouths or dangling by a strap – but what you might not notice is how many athletes aren’t using mouthguards.
Up to 39 percent of dental issues – a shocking number – can be traced to participation in sports, and studies conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) report that individuals who use mouthguards while playing sports are up to 93 percent less likely to suffer dentofacial injuries than those who don’t.
While contact sports such as football and rugby clearly demand use, individuals participating in other sports without traditional contact can still benefit from the use of a mouthguard. Beyond damage to teeth and the mouth, playing without a mouthguard can also increase your odds of a concussion – energy from impacts to the jaw can be transferred up through the teeth to the brain, causing damage.
“The use of a mouthguard can reduce the shock that is transferred in an impact to the jaw,” says Dr. Abbie Goudarzi a Delta Dental of Washington dental consultant. “Mouthguards are important safety equipment for those playing contact sports as well as those where contact is a possibility.”
The ADA lists 29 sports for which players should wear mouthguards while playing. However, many still refuse to do so, and studies show that convenience, comfort, and cost all contribute to the decision by kids and adults to forgo wearing mouthguards – resulting in 600,000 trips to the emergency room each year due to dental injuries accrued during sports.
Despite the prevalence of such injuries, many – especially youth – are still resistant to wearing mouthguards and are unaware of their importance. According to a survey by Delta Dental, four in 10 children don’t wear mouthguards when they participate in fall sports – and while sports that make mouthguards a requirement see higher numbers, many sports see usage rates below 30 or even 20 percent. Despite the risks, statistics have done little to promote mouthguard usage.
Dr. Goudarzi adds that “Many patients prioritize comfort over safety, or don’t take the risks of injury seriously enough. Others are discouraged by issues of cost or fit, and resist wearing an uncomfortable mouthguard that doesn’t feel like it fits right.”
A crowded market of similar-looking products with a wide range in prices – from under $10 to hundreds of dollars – means those looking into mouthguards may feel discouraged or unsatisfied with their purchase. Options range from off the shelf mouthguards to higher-priced mouthguards constructed by professionals that better hold and protect teeth. These are made to order and molded to fit your mouth, making issues of discomfort and a poor fit less of an issue. While the higher price may worry some purchasers, a quick look at the expenses incurred by reconstructive surgery or years of braces and dental work should help families realize the importance of preventative care.
A properly fitted mouthguard is necessary to ensure its effectiveness and to mitigate consequences. Lower cost options often have a limited lifespan and should be replaced at the start of every season. This is also beneficial for children and teens; as they grow, older mouthguards may not fit their teeth well and could constrain growth. Regular trips to the dentist and a close eye on your mouthguard’s condition ensure that it fits well and isn’t a risk for infection.
Concerns from players and coaches about mouthguards being unsanitary are understandable, but often draw from worst case scenarios. Proximity to teeth and gums exposes mouthguards to bacteria that can grow easily in a dark, often wet environment that a mouthguard and its container provides. That combined with proximity to teammates means it can be a hotbed for bacterial growth. However, cleaning mouthguards is an easy process that can be done with a toothbrush and variety of cleaning solutions and drastically reduces the chances of disease or illness.
Despite their growing presence in sports, mouthguards are still shaking their reputation as uncomfortable and unnecessary. The proper understanding, purchasing of, and care for mouthguards alleviates the most common problems. Delta Dental recommends asking your dentist about the use of mouthguards if you or your child plays sports.
For additional information about mouthguards and other pediatric dental topics, visit www.deltadentalwa.com/blog.Print This Post