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American Dental Association says mouthguard important piece of athletic gear

 

Injury risk nearly two times greater without mouth protection

CHICAGO, IL  — If you participate in organized sports or recreational activities, there’s always the risk of injury to the mouth, says the American Dental Association (ADA).

In a recent NHL playoff game, a Chicago Blackhawk player was struck in the mouth by a speeding puck. Although wearing a mouthguard, according to news reports, the player lost seven teeth in the incident, which serves as a reminder that acute dental injuries can occur when least expected.

Unlike many National Hockey League (NHL) players, most people will not face a slap shot, rocketing up to 100 mph, which poses clear injury risks. The same is true for swinging sticks and flying elbows. In many situations, mouthguards can help reduce the incidence and severity of dental injury.

“I dread picturing the degree of damage that the player might have sustained without wearing a mouthguard,” ponders ADA consumer advisor Matthew Messina, D.D.S., a general dentist from the Cleveland area. “A properly fitted mouthguard is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your mouth, cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw.”

Injury risk nearly two times greater

According to a 2007 evaluation of the effectiveness of mouthguards in reducing injuries, the overall injury risk was 1.6 to 1.9 times greater without a mouthguard, relative to the use of mouthguards during athletic activity. Another study of collegiate basketball teams found that athletes wearing custom-made mouthguards sustained significantly fewer dental injuries than those who did not.

“But you don’t have to be on the football field or in a hockey rink to benefit from a properly fitted mouthguard,” Dr. Messina explains. “Findings in sports dentistry show that even in non-contact sports, such as gymnastics, mouthguards will help protect participants, and many experts recommend that everyone–from children to adults–wear a mouthguard during any recreational activity that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth, including practice and training sessions.”

For sporting activities that are inherently contact-oriented (e.g., football), orofacial protectors or faceguards are also appropriate for added safety and protection. The ADA has endorsed the preventive value of orofacial protectors, including helmets, faceguards and mouth protectors, for use by participants in sporting and recreational activities with some degree of injury risk and at all levels of competition.

Choosing a Mouthguard

While custom mouthguards are considered by many to be the most protective option, other mouthguards can be effective if they fit well, are worn properly and stay in place.

The primary mouthguard types include:

  • The custom-fitted mouthguard made by your dentist
  • The mouth-formed, “boil-and-bite” mouthguard

Mouthguard

Athletic mouthguards provide protection, but vary in comfort and cost. The most effective mouthguard should be resilient, tear-resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable and easy to clean, and not restrict your speech or breathing. Generally, a mouthguard covers only the upper teeth, but in some cases the dentist will make a mouthguard for the lower teeth as well. Patients can seek the assistance of a dentist to ensure proper mouthguard thickness and adequate protection in critical areas, based on the sporting activity.

Like any other sports gear, a mouthguard will wear out, making it less effective. If your mouthguard has holes or tears, or if it becomes loose, it can irritate the teeth and oral tissues. Occasionally check the mouthguard’s condition and replace it as necessary.

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation’s largest dental association, representing more than 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public’s health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA’s state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA’s flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit the Association’s Web site at www.ada.org.


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