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Sports Injuries, Mouthguards, and Your Child’s Oral Health

September 15, 2014

Filed under: Children's Dentist — Tags: , — pontevedra @ 12:30 am

Does your child play sports?  If so, you are probably aware that there is a risk for mouth injuries in sports.  We hear so much about oral injuries as it relates to football, sometimes so much that it prevents us from seeing how prevalent it is in other sports. Many studies have shown the high levels of occurrence of oral injuries in basketball, skating, hockey, and gymnastics.

How Important are Mouthguards in Sports?

Can you picture if you or your child suddenly lost all of their front teeth from trauma?  The effects can be debilitating.  A recent study showed that non-professional athletes were from 1.6 to 1.9 times as susceptible to traumatic oral injuries if they did not wear a mouthguard.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of seat belts reduces the likely hood of death and significant injury by 45% and 50%, respectively.  If we are buckling our kids in we should also consider providing them with adequate sports safety equipment.

What are the Different Options for Mouthguards?

There are three major types of mouthguards for athletes.  Here are the details and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

  • Stock – Stock mouthguards are preformed and ready to use.  The major benefit of these are that they are inexpensive.  They do not require any modification to fit the mouth. There are two major drawbacks to the stock mouthguards.  First, they are bulky.  If you watch non-professional sports, you often will see athletes that are currently in the game or match and not wearing their mouthguard.  Uncomfortable equipment breeds a lack of compliance.  A mouthguard is no good if it is not used.  Second, these guards do not fit how they should.  The sizes of these guards are made for the masses and the different sizes and anatomy of our mouths can make these ill fitting and therefore nowhere near optimal in their function.
  • Boil and Bite – Boil and bite mouthguards can be purchased at a local sporting goods store.  The material is softened in hot water and adapted to the contours of the mouth. These are much better than the stock trays because they fit better.  They are not much different in terms of bulk and comfort than the stock trays so breathing, drinking, and speaking is still difficult.  In addition, the trays often are overextended in certain areas and need to be trimmed and smoothed properly for an optimum fit.
  • Custom Made – The custom made tray is created by your dentist.  Impressions of the mouth are taken and casts are poured in dental stone.  From there, a soft tray material is sucked down over the cast and trimmed.  These trays have several benefits.  First, they are much more comfortable than the stock and the boil and bite trays.  They are uniform in thickness and have extensions that are specific to the user’s mouth.  Drinking, breathing, and speaking are easier with these trays.  Several studies have been done finding that gas exchange, optimal cortisol levels, and endurance are increased when utilizing a custom tray vs. stock trays.  Second, they provide the optimum protection because they have an exact fit.  The only drawback to the custom tray is the cost.  This does require a dentist visit and the associated costs.

We hope that your child is wearing a mouthpiece during sports activities.  We understand that the cost of losing or damaging a tooth or teeth is significant and would prefer that our patients retain the teeth in their mouths for many years to come.  If you have any questions at any time or would like to schedule a consultation, contact us electronically or call us at (904) 285-7711.  If you want to learn more about other oral health issues, feel free to check out our past blog entries!

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