Youth sports participation has grown steadily over the years and so have injuries. The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports dental injuries as the most common type of face and mouth injury kids experience in sports related accidents.
A new report issued by dental experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that mouthguards should be included in safety gear for all contact sports.
Sports-related dental injuries send more than 600,000 people to the emergency room every year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Most of these injuries involve the front teeth, but the tongue and cheeks can also be hurt while playing sports, the UAB team said.
The best way to protect the mouth and teeth during sports is to wear a mouthguard, says Dr. Ken Tilashalski, associate dean for academic affairs at the UAB School of Dentistry. Mouthguards have been shown to reduce the risk of sports-related dental injury by 60 times, he said.
"Wearing a mouthguard reduces the chances of tooth fractures, tooth dislocations and soft tissue cuts," Tilashalski said in a university news release. "The guards also protect against jaw fractures and concussions by absorbing the energy of a traumatic blow to the chin."
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends wearing custom 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 basically three types of mouthguards to choose from:
· Stock: These are preformed and ready to wear, but they may not fit well inside the mouth.
· Boil and bite: These may be customized and molded to the mouth by softening in boiling water before biting down.
· Custom-made: A dentist tailor-makes these mouthguards to fit an individual's mouth. These mouthguards provide the best fit and the highest level of protection.
"For my kids, I have chosen to use custom mouthguards as they fit and feel better, do not interfere with speech, and are essentially invisible," Tilashalski said. "Mouthguards need to be replaced as they wear down, and athletes in the tooth-forming years will have to have these replaced more often as the mouth grows and the teeth change."
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.
After each use, rinse your mouthguard and store it in a hard container to prevent the buildup of germs, Tilashalski said. Players should also avoid chewing on their mouthguard to extend its life.
It is important to remember damaged teeth do not grow back. Protect your child’s teeth by making sure he or she wears a mouthguard during practice, competition or just out having fun in a sport where falls are common such as biking, skating and skateboarding.
Story sources: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://consumer.healthday.com/dental-and-oral-information-9/misc-dental-problem-news-174/mouthguards-key-defense-against-sports-related-injuries-716284.html