Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Sports injuries impact school attendance, performance and can have lasting effects on tissue morphology. Close to half of childhood injuries to teeth are preventable sports injuries.
Traumatic injuries to the mouth impact smile aesthetics and interfere with tooth development. Studies have shown that mouthguard utilization reduced the incidence of sports injuries.
Types of Mouthguards
Mouthguards are separated into three major categories: stock, boil and bite or custom. Stock mouthguards offer the least amount of retention, so they interfere with athlete communication and breathing. Boil and bite are available over the counter. Custom mouthguards are made by a dentist.
A child is approximately 2X more likely to have a facial injury if they are not wearing a mouthguard. Key features to look for are retention, adequate material thickness and safe material choice.
Retention allows the athlete to focus on their sport, communicate and breathe. Thickness ensures that all tissues are protected. While boil and bite mouthguards provide better retention than stock mouthgaurds, the best option is a custom made mouthgaurd. A Mouthguard prevents tongue trauma and lip biting as well.
A study showed that athletes that wore over the counter mouthguards were more than two times more likely to suffer a mild traumatic brain injury than students utilizing a custom-made mouthguard. The main reasons postulated for this is that custom-made mouthgaurds fit better and are usually thicker.
Ensure that the mouth guard is brushed after each use. Utilize cold water. Apply an alcohol-free antiseptic after brushing. Store in a ventilated container. Purchase and request manufacturing of a mouthguard that are BPA-free (BPA is a chemical found in plastics that can leach into the oral cavity and impact child health and behaviour) and ensure that you bring the mouthguard to dental appointments to confirm retention and structural integrity.
Types of Injuries
A tooth may be knocked out of its socket. The best protocol is this case is to lightly place the tooth back into the socket or place it in a saline or milk solution. Visit the dentist within 30 minutes. Delaying the visit will reduce chances of successful tooth re-integration.
Children may swallow a part of their tooth, have excessive bleeding that lasts over 10 minutes, be unable to open their jaws, have difficulty breathing or swallowing, get cut inside or around their mouth and/or create a puncture in the oral cavity or lip. All of these scenarios warrant an emergency visit to the doctor. Most are preventable with a mouthguard.
Injury to childhood dentition can impact permanent tooth development. Even minor injuries to permanent teeth may lead to the pulp death. Pulp wealth can change tooth color and lead to expensive restorative needs down the line.
The severity of injuries associated with failure to wear a mouthguard combined with the robust data in support of a mouthguard as a preventative measure indicate one thing: coaches and parents need to promote, encourage and require mouthguards during contact sports.