A new school year has begun, and with that, sports season is just around the corner. As the buzz of club try- outs, evaluations, selecting teams and practice/games schedules begins, it is important to not forget about safety!
When participating in sports, safety equipment should be at the top of the list when it comes to an athlete’s uniform. Helmets are typically required when playing sports such as football, baseball, softball, etc. But are mouth guards a part of the standard equipment? The American Association of Orthodontist found that 84% of children playing an organized sport do not wear a mouth guard because they are not required to do so. This is very concerning because athletes who do not wear a mouth guard are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth. If your child is playing in any of the following sports, it is recommended by the American Dental Association that they wear a mouth guard: football, basketball, lacrosse, gymnastics, martial arts, roller hockey, skateboarding, soccer, volleyball and even surfing! We will take it a step further and say that players involved in baseball and softball should wear a mouth guard, as well. Any time there is a chance for contact to the face by the ground, another player or a ball, a mouth guard should be worn.
While wearing a mouth guard is not a sure proof way of preventing all dental injuries, it certainly helps reduce the potential severity of the injury. Approximately, 50% of sports injuries are directly to the mouth and many require professional treatment to minimize long term complications.
- Tooth fracture/Tooth loss
One of the most common dental injuries that occurs in sports. When a tooth cracks or is knocked out due to impact with the ground or a hard ball, it is imperative to seek medical treatment in order to try and preserve the tooth. Wearing a mouth guard will significantly lower the chances of cracking a tooth or having one knocked out completely. Treating these injuries can be very costly for the parent and uncomfortable for the child.
- Splitting of the Lip/Tongue
This occurs quite frequently when a player does not wear a mouth guard. They take a stumble, make hard contact with another player or have a ball hit them directly in the mouth, causing one or more of their teeth to puncture their tongue or lip. Again, a mouth guard can significantly reduce the risk of this injury.
Types of Mouth Guards
- Ready Made/Boil and Bite
These are the most common mouth guards because they are the least expensive. While they do not offer the same protection as a mouth guard that is made by a dentist or orthodontist, it is still better than wearing nothing.
- Custom Made Mouth Guards
These mouth guards are more expensive than the OTC mouth guards, but they offer the best protection. They are customized by a doctor or professional technician to ensure a proper fit and are the best option for players with braces or dental implants.
Proper Handling of the Mouth Guard
It is crucial to explain to your child the proper positioning of the mouth guard. We understand it is very common for players to complain that a mouth guard is uncomfortable or bulky and not want to wear it. To ensure the effectiveness of the mouth guard, the player needs to leave the mouth guard in place while in action and not chew on it. The mouth guard cannot do its job if is being treated like a piece of gum.
Once the game or practice is over, the mouth guard should be washed with a non alcohol mouth wash or brushed with toothpaste and a toothbrush. Gently dry the mouth guard and store in a dry case. Never leave the mouth guard loose in a gym bag or store damp, as it can collect loads of bacteria and germs.
Ultimately, it is impossible to guarantee an injury free sports season but there are steps that can be taken to lessen the chances. It is our sincere hope that parents and coaches will do everything in their power to provide proper safety equipment for all sporting participants. Please let us know if we can help in any way!
We wish everyone a safe and fun sports season! Remember, protect those teeth!