Youth and adolescent sports participation has grown steadily over the years. It is estimated that 20 to 25 million youths participate in competitive sports. As a result of this growth in participation levels, incidence of injury has also increased. Some reports show sports account for approximately 36% of all unintentional injuries to children and adolescents. Of those injuries, 10-20% of all sports related injuries are maxillofacial injuries according to the American Dental Association.
The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports dental injuries as the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during sports participation. They contend that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard. Often times these injuries will result in permanent damage to oral structures which require medical intervention.
Many dental injuries are easily prevented. Experts recommend that mouthguards be worn by athletes in competitive and recreational sports in which impact, contact and collision are likely to occur. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends wearing mouthguards for the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling. Other experts include baseball and softball infielders on that list. They further recommend the mouthguard to be worn during all practices and competition.
There are three types of mouthguards:
- Ready-made or stock mouthguard
- Mouth-formed “boil and bite” mouthguard
- Custom-made mouthguard made by a dentist
These mouthguards vary in price and comfort, yet all provide some protection. According to the ADA, the most effective mouthguard should be comfortable, resistant to tearing, and resilient. A mouthguard should fit properly, be durable, easily cleaned, and not restrict speech or breathing.
It has been suggested that a properly fitted custom mouthguard may also reduce the risk of concussion, however there is currently no evidence to support this assertion.
It is important to remember damaged teeth do not grow back. Protect that perfect smile – wear a mouthguard.
Consult your primary care physician for more serious injuries that do not respond to basic first aid. As an added resource, the staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine is available to diagnose and treat sports-related injuries for youth or adolescent athletes. Services are now available in five locations. To make an appointment, call (614) 355-6000 or request an appointment online.