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Posted on August 15, 2014
Hey Sports Fans! With Fall right around the corner, ‘tis the time to start thinking about preparing for… no, not school! Fall Sports! More specifically, does your child or teen have the proper gear for those contact sports: football, volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and the worst, trampoline horse play? Yep, anytime kids of various sizes, weights, and experience join together you can be sure injuries will occur. Statistically about 7-10% of emergency room visits include head trauma, and the National Sports Foundation reports 15 million broken teeth and 5 million knocked out teeth per year! Which sports are the biggest offenders? Not football or hockey – mouth guards are mandatory for those sports. Basketball and baseball account for over half of dental injuries. Only 6% of those players wear mouth guards since they are not required.

Mouthguards that protect the teeth come in three types: stock, boil and fit, or custom made. Stock mouthguards come in all colors and costs, but they are not custom shaped to the teeth. They don’t work that well because kids have a hard time keeping them in the mouth. For various creative reasons they are often left in the gym bag. Stock mouthguards are best for kids wearing braces since they can fit around the braces to give some level of protection.

Boil and Fit mouthguards can be shaped to fit, are inexpensive and readily available at most sport stores. These are great for young athletes who are still losing teeth as the mouthguards can be repeatedly reshaped. Parents can further customize these mouthguards by trimming the flanges with sharp scissors.

Custom mouthguards are the type most dentists can easily make in the office. They run around $30-50 and can be made to fit very tightly to guard against injury while allowing the athlete to talk with them in. They can also be made to various thicknesses which can also improve wear compliance. Oh yea, they also come in school colors! Custom mouthguards should be considered essential gear for serious young athletes over the age of 13 years in all contact sports including basketball and baseball. I would even consider them for gymnastics and swimming. Pools walls are never kind to kids!

Over the years, mouthguard manufacturers have made many claims. Proctection of the teeth from chipping after a blow to the chin or directly on the teeth is the main use of a mouthguard. Other claims of protection of jaw fracture prevention are logical but only anecdotal. Claims of a “power position” of the jaws for improved strength, cortisol (healing steroid) release improvement, or airway improvement are all unsubstantiated in the dental peer reviewed literature.

One more thing, I see more injuries from trampolines and scooters than any other summer time activity. While the use of mouthguards may be overkill for these activities, limiting the number of kids on a tramp and setting limits for scooter use may save a kids lots of time in the dental chair!

As summer winds down, I hope we can all look back on a memorable and safe three months. With a little forethought, we can protect our kids as we roll, jump or block our way into fall. Mouthguards that are comfortable and expected by parents can help in that endeavor. Good Luck with the new season!