About one-third of traumatic injuries to teeth are sports-related (ADA)
1 in 2 children experience some form of dental injury when playing sport (Sports Medicine Australia)
What is a mouthguard?
A mouthguard is a thick rubbery shield worn over the teeth that protects the face, jaws, and teeth from high impact activities such as sport.
According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), about one-third of traumatic injuries to teeth are sports-related. Sports Medicine Association Australia reports that 50% of children experience some form of dental injury. This can be minor or major including broken, chipped or lost teeth, broken jaws and lacerations to your lips and gums. These types of injuries can be prevented by wearing a custom fitted mouthguard at training and on game day.
How do mouthguards help?
During direct impact to the face, the force can travel through your jaw, teeth and even the upper part of your skull. This can dramatically increase the risk of injuries like broken front teeth and concussions. Impact to your lower jaw can cause the jaws to slam together and damage both rows of teeth or possibly even fracture the lower jaw.
Mouthguards act as a buffer for these kinds of impact. The spongy material helps to absorb and spread the shock and lessen the force applied to your teeth, jaws, and skull.
The ADA tells us there are five good reasons for wearing a mouthguard when playing (and training for) sport:
- They cushion teeth against impact
- They protect against jaw joint injuries
- They protect against soft tissue injuries
- They help prevent neck and jaw injuries
- They may help reduce concussion.
Which mouthguard is right for you?
Constructed and fitted by a dental professional, a customised mouthguard provides the best protection for your teeth. The dentist takes an impression of your teeth and makes a plaster model to get an exact copy of your teeth and the ideal fit. The mouthguard needs to be at least 4mm thick, with a cushioning effect that provides protection against impact. It fits snugly so it’s still possible to talk and breathe normally while playing sport.
Over-the-counter mouthguards, usually purchased from a sports shop or pharmacy, that are self-fitted at home by placing the blank in hot water then biting into the mouthguard so it takes the general shape of the teeth and mouth. It’s less effective and can be more uncomfortable as it is not a replica fit of the person’s bite and anatomy of the jaw. These mouthguards are often bulky, loose and do not give ideal protection and are difficult to talk and breathe while trying to wear. However, if you're in a fix, a boil-and-bite mouthguard is better than no mouthguard at all. People with orthodontic braces can use a good quality boil-and –bite mouthguard if they are playing sports for the duration of orthodontic treatment.
For which sports should your child be wearing a mouthguard?
Most people would indicate that mouthguards are imperative for high contact sports such as AFL and rugby, boxing and hockey. However the Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that mouthguards should be worn when playing any sport where there is a risk of contact to the face, including football, rugby, boxing, basketball, hockey, water polo, lacrosse, netball, baseball, softball, squash, soccer, mountain biking, horse riding, skateboarding, trampolining, cricket, water skiing and snow skiing or snowboarding.
Why invest in a custom-fitted mouthguard?
The Australian Dental Association’s website about Mouthguard Awareness states that only 36% of children aged 5-17 wear a mouthguard during games.
Whilst you might have some concern about the expense of providing your children with a custom-fitted mouthguard every season, if a blow to the face happens during sport and the athlete is not wearing a mouthguard, the injuries can be disfiguring, painful and may require a lengthy course of dental treatment (something most families don’t budget for). A properly-fitted mouthguard can be a good insurance policy against future expenses.