A smile is the prettiest thing your child will ever wear. That smile also runs a risk of getting injured regardless of the sport your child plays. Studies have found that around 32% of all facial/dental traumas are sport related. Unfortunately, those dental injuries are not simple fixes by a dentist. Not only do these injuries cause pain, but the lifetime cost of a severely injured tooth (not teeth) can be up to $20,000.
How depressing. Luckily, there are things we can do to prevent these injuries and expenses.
First, it is important to know what is most appropriate for each sport. Baseball accounts for the most dental injuries in the seven to 12 year age group. For baseball and softball, dentists recommend an ASTM-certified face protector. Basketball accounts for the most dental injuries in the 13-17 year old age group. A custom-fabricated mouthguard during this age period is going to serve your child best to maintain that perfect smile.
Finding the Right Mouthguard
Second, the type of mouth guard does matter. Custom-fabricated mouthguards made by a dentist after an impression in a dental office is going to provide superior protection. There is early research on the reduction of concussions with these types of mouth guards. Custom-fabricated mouthguards are not always feasible while the athlete is in the middle of losing their baby teeth and getting their permanent teeth. Braces can also cause a barrier. In this instance, we recommend either the mouth-formed /“boil and bite” or going to your dentist where they can anticipate the changes. Not all mouthguards are made equal. Research has found that stock mouthguards can interfere with breathing and speaking.
Your Child’s Teeth
Third, your child’s mouth and how the teeth come together matters. Children with significant overjet or “buck teeth” have a greater chance of dental trauma. Parents often ask the question of early orthodontic care (braces). Children with these “noticeable” front teeth not only benefit esthetically when we address this type of bite early but it also limits the chance of trauma to the front teeth.
Help Promote Protective Gear
Finally, the parents’ and coaches’ attitudes toward occlusal guards matter! As it currently stands, the National Federation of State High School Associations mandates mouthguards for football, ice hockey, lacrosse, field hockey and wrestlers wearing braces. Hopefully, more sports will be included in the list as time goes on. The earlier your athlete begins practicing with this new protective equipment, the better. Ask your pediatric dentist today how you can protect your athlete’s winning smile.
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Policy on Prevention of Sports-related Orofacial Injuries.
National Federation of State High School Associations, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. Position statement and recommendations for mouthguard use in sports. 2018.
Winters J, DeMont R. Role of mouthguards in reducing mild traumatic brain injury/concussion incidence in high school athletes. Gen Dent 2014;62(3):34-8.