Safeguarding smiles: The importance of mouthguards in sports
Sports-related dental injuries are more common than you might think, ranging from minor chipped teeth to severe avulsed teeth and jaw fractures. Athletes not wearing mouthguards face dental trauma rates of around 50%, while those who do wear them experience a significant drop to just 7%. A mouthguard is a crucial item of protective gear designed to shield teeth, soft tissues, and hard structures during sports activities.
Beyond just preventing tooth injuries, a well-fitted mouthguard cushions the lips, cheeks, and tongue, also helping to prevent TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) injuries and mandible fractures.
While they absorb a substantial amount of impact, it’s important to note that mouthguards don’t eliminate the risk of injuries entirely, but significantly reduce their occurrence.
There are three main types of mouthguards: stock, boil and bite (mouth-formed), and custom.
Stock mouthguards, being the least effective, require clenching to stay in place, affecting speech and breathing.
Boil and bite options, cost-effective and popular among high school athletes, still impact communication and airflow.
Custom guards, though more expensive, offer the best fit, comfort, and protection, adapting precisely to the athlete’s mouth. Patient acceptance is a challenge, but custom guards boast the highest retention and adaptation rates.
Milwaukee Admirals official team dentist Dr. Hannah Draver and TMJ4’s Andrea Boehlke model sports mouthguards in the Milwaukee Admirals’ locker room.
While hockey and football are well-known for their dental injury risks, sports like lacrosse, softball, baseball, and basketball also pose a significant threat. Surprisingly, football ranks low in dental injuries due to stringent protective equipment requirements, including helmets with faceguards and mouthguards.
If a tooth is completely knocked out, seek dental consultation immediately! Preserve the tooth in milk, saliva, or a solution designed for this purpose; never use water. The pH, osmolarity, and other components of milk or saliva will help preserve the cells on the tooth. While baby teeth should not be reinserted, permanent teeth might sometimes be salvaged if promptly placed back in the socket.
Beyond traumatic injuries, athletes — like anyone else — require regular dental checkups and cleanings. The higher incidence of cavities among athletes can be attributed to sugary foods and drinks consumed during training and competitions.
The use of mouthguards goes beyond preventing dental injuries; it’s a fundamental aspect of ensuring the overall well-being of athletes. From choosing the right type of mouthguard, to routine care, to helping in emergency responses, your dentist can help all aspects of an athlete’s oral health.