Submitted by Jeff Reynolds, DMD, Delta Dental.
Up to 60 percent of student-athletes will experience a sports-related dental injury, and some 30 percent of all sports injuries are related to the mouth and teeth, making mouthguards an important part of back-to-school equipment for those who play sports. While mouthguards are often mandated for football, hockey and lacrosse, facial injuries are common in other sports and activities as well, including basketball, baseball, skateboarding, and bicycling.
So, what are they? A mouthguard is a polymer rubber material which, when worn, adds a protective layer to reduce the potential for dental injuries. Mouthguards help cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to students’ lips, tongue, face, and jaw. These injuries can be both costly and painful, so are worth preventing. According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, students who don’t use mouthguards are 60 times more likely to suffer an injury to their mouths than those who do, making the devices an effective solution for preventing chipped teeth, cuts to the cheek or lips, tooth loss, and nerve damage.
The American Dental Association (ADA) agrees. To prevent injuries to the face and mouth, the ADA recommends the use of mouthguards in both games and practice for 29 sports. Many families opt for off-the-shelf, so-called “boil and bite” mouthguards, which are cost-effective, but less comfortable and durable than custom mouthguards. Custom mouthguards, made by a dentist, which require mouth molds are more expensive but fit more comfortably. These mouthguards stay in place better, are resistant to tearing and breaking, and are easier to breathe and speak with while worn. Because they are custom fit based on an individual’s particular teeth and anatomy, they also have the tendency to not cause a vomiting reflex.
If a student athlete wears braces, a mouthguard is even more important, as the braces can cause lacerations of the mouth. Orthodontists can provide braces-appropriate mouthguard.
Just like seatbelts in the ‘60s and bicycle helmets in the ‘70s, mouthguards are the latest safety innovation to protect young people. Sports have become an integral part of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. It is important to prevent sports-related injuries whenever possible and the easiest way to do so is wearing protective gear. Mouthguards are just as important in preventing physical injuries as helmets, padding, and gloves.
Get one, and then, keep it clean!
It’s important to keep a mouthguard clean before and after use.
To clean your mouthguard:
- Rinse it and brush it in cool water and after each use. Let it air dry.
- Keep it away from extreme heat and keep it in a plastic case when not in use.
- Store the mouthguard out of reach of dogs and other pets.
- Bring your mouthguard to dental checkups for inspection, fitting, and professional cleaning.
Many dental benefit programs cover mouthguards; check with your plan to see if you have any benefits related to mouthguard.
For more information about mouthguards, visit Delta Dental of Washington’s blog.
Jeff Reynolds, DMD is Delta Dental of Washington member dentist and serves as the Dental Care & Dental Director for Community Health Care.