As the sports season approaches you may be looking into a mouthguard for your children or yourself. Each year, more than 2.6 million children up to age 19 suffer sports injuries severe enough to require emergency-room treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies report approximately one third of orofacial injuries result from sports trauma and as dental professionals, we are often asked about the types of appliances available and the benefits of their use.
Why wear a mouthguard?
Sports injuries are a common cause of dental emergencies. The following facts come from the National Youth Sports Foundation:
- Dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury suffered while participating in sports; sadly, the majority of these injuries are preventable.
- An athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard.
- The cost of a fractured tooth is up to 10 times greater than the cost of a dentist-diagnosed and designed professionally made mouthguard.
- Every athlete involved in a contact sport has about a 10% chance per season of an orofacial injury.
Mouthguards provide protection to the teeth and jaw preventing injuries such as bruises and lacerations of the cheeks, lips, and tongue from impacting teeth. They also provide lower jaw support which prevents concussions resulting from the mandible receiving outside forces causing impact in the jaw joint at the base of the skull which transmit trauma to the brain. Teeth are also cushioned and protected from the force of trauma by spreading the redistribution of the force.
What types of mouthguards available?
There are three types of athletic mouthguards which provide different levels of protection.
1. Stock mouthguard
Least costly and are purchased at a sporting goods store for off-the-shelf use. They offer the least protection as the fit is generic and can become a breathing or choking hazard if the wearer becomes unconscious from injury.
2. Boil-and-bite guard
Most commonly used and are also purchased at a sporting goods store. The appliance is fitted by heating in boiling water and molded to the teeth – often resulting in a better fit but minimally better support for the jaw and protection.
3. Custom made athletic guard
A highly accurate mold of the teeth is taken and the guard is fabricated by using a layered and pressure-formed material with appropriate thickness and support of posterior teeth. These have the added benefit to be fabricated with names and school colors included upon request. Interestingly, there have been reports of athletes performing at a higher level due to stability and comfort in the jaw along with improved breathing. Although greater in cost, custom made mouthguards are far superior in benefit and worth the investment.
What is the Benefit?
Injury prevention is the best and least costly way to protect ourselves while playing sports. Concussions can require costly imaging procedures and follow-up visits and replacing lost or broken teeth can cost thousands to tens-of-thousands of dollars over a lifetime. A well made mouthguard is a fraction of these costs.