As many students are training for football, baseball, hockey, soccer, and other sports, this is also the time of year for sports-related injuries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), sports-related dental injuries send approximately 600,000 youths to the emergency room each year involving children as young as 5 years old. Prevention is a large aspect of oral health. Oral health prevention includes the prevention of injury to the mouth, teeth, neck, and jaws. In an attempt to promote awareness of facial injury prevention, five organizations have sponsored April as being the National Facial Protection Month: American Dental Association (ADA), American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the Academy for Sports Dentistry. Contact sports such as football, hockey, and basketball are common sources of oral injury; however, other sports such as gymnastics and volleyball pose a threat as well. Common head and neck injuries can include concussions, fractured teeth, oral lacerations, jaw joint sprains, and neck injuries.
Treating oral injury can become very costly to the parent. The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) estimates the total cost for tooth replacement after sports injury can range from $5,000 to $20,000 over a lifetime. The NYSSF reports that athletes are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth without a mouthguard. Unfortunately, a 2009 survey by the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) found that 67 percent of parents stated their children do not wear a mouthguard during organized sports.
A mouthguard is a simple, rubber-type appliance worn typically over the upper teeth. Mouthguards function as a shock absorber to buffer the impact of a blow or trauma to the head. According to the CDC, this small appliance, if worn during sports, may prevent 200,000 oral injuries each year, avoid the risk of concussion by 50 percent, and prevent injury to teeth by 60 percent.
Mouthguards are available in three variations: stock mouthguards; mouth-formed, “boil-and-bite” mouthguards; and custom mouthguards fabricated by a dentist. The stock mouthguard is inexpensive, ready to wear, and can be found at most drug and sporting goods stores. Athletic stores also supply the boil-and-bite mouthguards which are formed by softening the guard in warm water and adapting it to one’s teeth. The boil-and-bite creates a higher level of protection than the stock mouthguard due to its more formed characteristic. The custom, dentist-fabricated mouthguard conforms closely to the teeth providing the highest protection.
A mouthguard is an essential that no athlete should be without.
• Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit www.BellaVistaDentalCare.com.