If you or your children play sports, then you are probably very familiar with the bumps and bruises that come with any contact sport. In fact, the odds are that sports injuries like sprained ankles, facial cuts, even broken bones, will happen at some point over the course of a sports career – whether professional or not.
The National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries, Inc. reports some very interesting statistics about sports injuries. Dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during participation in sports.
As far as our children are concerned, they are starting to play competitive sports at even younger and younger ages. It is the parent of caregiver’s responsibility to do everything we can to minimize the risk of dental injuries. Things like broken and chipped teeth, cut lips and cheeks, and other forms of orofacial trauma can be painful reminders about how important it is to protect our mouth during sports. These dental injuries are not limited to just organized sports. If your child owns a bicycle, you should be aware that biking is at the top of the list for sports-related injuries.
Risk factors for dental injuries depend a lot on the child’s age. Teens, especially male teens, are most likely to experience a dental injury. This is due mainly to the athlete having more freedom from the watchful eye of a parent or caregiver. The parent has a tremendous amount of authority over their sports participation with a younger athlete. This sphere of influence is greatly reduced when the child becomes a teen and is able to drive to his own sporting events. At that point parents and caregivers rely more on coaches and referees to enforce rules related the players’ use of athletic protective equipment.
Did you know?
- On average, 22,000 dental injuries occur annually in children under the age of 18.
- Outdoor activities and products are associated with the largest number of dental injuries to baby (primary) teeth in children aged 7 to 12 with 50% of these incidents related to bicycle accidents.
- Outdoor activities and products are also associated with the largest number of dental injuries to permanent teeth in adolescents aged 13 to 17.
- Of all sports, baseball and basketball consistently produce the largest number of dental injuries each year.
- Over 80% of all dental injuries involve the upper front teeth.
- Age, gender, condition and position of the teeth, as well as the type of sport being played are all key risk factors associated with the likelihood of experiencing a sports injury.
- Studies show that teenage boys involved in contact sports, collision sports, and high-velocity non-contact sports are at the highest risks for dental injuries.
- Young girls are starting to participate in many of these same sports, and thus their risks for injuries are climbing.
So, what can we do if we want to protect our children from dental injuries such as lost, chipped or fractured teeth? Well the Academy for Sports Dentistry (ASD) suggests that we provide our young athletes with a properly fitted mouth guard. Studies have shown that athletes are 60 times more likely to sustain a dental injury when they are not wearing one. In fact, the American Dental Association estimates that mouthguards prevent approximately 200,000 injuries each year in high school and college football alone.
A properly fitted mouthguard must have these qualities:
- Be protective
- Be comfortable
- Be resilient and tear resistant
- Be odorless and tasteless
- Not be bulky and cause minimal interference to speaking and breathing
- And (possibly the most important criteria) have excellent retention, fit, and sufficient thickness in critical areas
The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom made athletic mouth guards for the following sports: baseball, basketball, hockey, football, wrestling, bike riding, volleyball, skiing, soccer, basketball, skateboarding, water polo and weightlifting.
There are 3 main types of mouth guards available:
1) Stock mouthguard
2) Mouth-formed mouthguard
3) Custom-made mouthguard
The stock mouth guard is the least expensive of the three – however, because it is often bulky and uncomfortable, athletes don’t always wear it regularly. The mouth-formed mouth guard is the “boil and bite” type which is made from a thermoplastic material. After it is softened in hot water, it is adapted to the athlete’s teeth using finger and tongue pressure. The custom-made mouth guard is made in the dental office from special materials. It is formed specifically for that athlete’s mouth. Although it is more expensive than the other types, it provides a much higher level of comfort and protection.
Mouthguards are absolutely critical for athletes everywhere. The last thing you want to happen is for your child to walk through the door, all bloodied and bruised, with teeth missing or falling out. All because he neglected to wear a mouthguard. Aside from the thousands of dollars in dental work – crowns, stiches, etc., the trauma is often extremely upsetting. A mouth guard can minimize or even prevent a major dental injury. However, only if it’s well fitting and worn every time. Invest in a custom mouth guard for your athlete – then insist that he or she wears it!