Mouthguards – A Simple Device to Reduce Injury

Participating in sports is a terrific way to stay active, have fun, and enjoy the great outdoors. And the Bloomington-Normal area offers a plethora of options for all ages — from pee-wee T-ball and youth hockey leagues to High School and college team sports to leisure activities like skateboarding, skiing, and biking.

Parents often worry about sports-related injuries like broken bones, concussions, or torn ligaments, but may fail to consider the risk of injury to the teeth. The reality is that sporting accidents are one of the most common causes of dental injury, accounting for more than 600,000 visits to the emergency room each year. More than 3 million teeth are knocked out each year due to youth sporting events and approximately 25 percent of all dental injuries in children are sports-related, with the majority involving the top front teeth. Dental injuries are not only traumatic; they are expensive! It can cost up to $20,000 over a lifetime to treat a missing permanent tooth. And while a broken bone will heal, teeth do not grow back.

Fortunately, many dental injuries are easy to prevent by simply wearing a mouthguard. In fact, According to the American Dental Association, an athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard.

There are three different kinds of mouthguards:

  • Stock: These are ready-made, inexpensive and found at most sporting good stores. They come in several different sizes and shapes and are usually made of rubber or polyvinyl material. The downside is that the fit cannot be adjusted and the only way to hold them in place is by biting down. This causes them to be uncomfortable and can interfere with breathing and talking.
  • Boil and bite: These are also readily available and generally fit better than stock mouthguards. They are softened first in boiling water, then shaped to your teeth by biting and using your fingers to push it into shape. This type of mouthguard is the most common, and certainly offers a degree of protection.
  • Custom-fitted: These are the best because they are individually made by your dentist to fit your mouth exactly. They are the most comfortable and offer superior protection. The process is fairly simple and doesn’t take a lot of time. Your dentist takes impressions of both top and bottom teeth. This is sent off to a dental lab for fabrication. When the final product is delivered, usually in about 10 days, your dentist will do another fitting and make any necessary adjustments. While custom-fitted mouthguards are a little more expensive, the price is minimal when one considers the cost of repairing or replacing a tooth. Another benefit of custom-fitted mouthguards is that they can reduce the occurrence of concussions because they lessen the impact of blows to the jaw.

Currently, mouthguards are mandatory for only four school-based sports — football, ice hockey, lacrosse and field hockey — and there are very few dental injuries from those sports. However, basketball and baseball are two sports that cause the largest number of dental injuries, yet few players wear them. We know that mouthguards greatly reduce the number of traumatic tooth injuries from all sports, so why don’t more people wear them?

One reason is that mouthguards aren’t mandatory protective equipment for most organized sports, although some coaches and administrators institute their own safety rules. Another reason is that people are simply not aware of the frequency and severity of dental trauma and how effective a mouthguard is in preventing such injuries. It is human nature to think that accidents only happen to other people and young athletes are unlikely to wear something that isn’t required.

The popularity and competiveness of organized sports for youth of all ages is continuing to increase. Don’t let your child become the next statistic. Just like you wouldn’t drive without wearing your seatbelt, don’t let a child play sports without a mouthguard.

For more information, you may contact Dr. Emil Verban, Jr., DDS at 309-662-8448 or visit www.mcleancountydental.com. McLean County Dental is located at 2103 E. Washington Street in Bloomington. Dr. Verban’s education, training and experience provide his patients both general dentistry expertise and the ability to provide specialized services such as dental implants.

Originally published at Healthy Cells Magazine.

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