The spring sports season is upon us. According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF), student athletes account for a significant part of the 15 million dental injuries and the five million cases of traumatically lost teeth that occur every year.
The Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) recommends that both children and adults wear a mouthguard when participating in any sport or recreational activity where injury to the mouth can occur, including football, field hockey, ice hockey, baseball, basketball, softball, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating and martial arts. Mouthguards can also help prevent more serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, jaw fractures and neck injuries.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an athlete is 70 times more likely to sustain damage to teeth when not wearing a mouthguard and almost one-third of all dental injuries are sports-related. During a single athletic season, athletes have a 1 in 10 chance of suffering a facial or dental injury.
There are currently four types of mouthguards available to the public, ranging in price and quality. They include:
- Stock mouthguards: This type of mouthguard is the least expensive, but also offers less protection because the fit adjustment is limited. This type is often associated with difficulty breathing and speaking, and can sometimes cause gagging.
- Boil and bite: When heated and placed in the mouth, the protector’s lining material molds to the teeth and then sets. The fit is not as good as a custom-made mouthguard and it will not last as long.
- Custom-made mouthguards: Custom-made by your dentist, these guards are superior to the other types of mouthguards listed above. They offer the best protection, fit and comfort level because they are made from a cast to fit your teeth.
- Laboratory pressure laminated mouthguards: A more advanced custom-made guard, this mouth protector is made by laminating two or three layers of material to achieve maximum thickness and protection.
The PDA encourages you to invest in a custom-made mouthguard. Though they are initially more expensive, lifetime dental rehabilitation costs can exceed $15,000 per avulsed tooth.
To care for your mouthguard, clean by washing it with soap and warm (not hot) water. Soak your mouthguard in mouthwash before storing, and store in a well-ventilated plastic storage box. Do not leave your mouthguard in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile as it can be damaged by exposure to heat. Do not bend your mouthguard when storing. Finally, never handle or wear someone else’s mouthguard. If cared for properly, mouthguards can last for more than one season.
If a permanent tooth does break or becomes dislodged, gently rinse it with water while being careful not to handle the root. Try to reposition the tooth back into the socket, and if this is not possible, store the tooth in cold milk or even saliva and get to your dentist immediately.
The PDA encourages you to consult your dentist if you have any questions about mouthguards or oral injury. For more information on other oral health topics, visit PDA’s website at http://www.padental.org/.