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Should I, or my child, wear a mouthguard whist playing sport?

Child playing sport

Many people believe sport is a quintessential part of the Australian lifestyle.

It is also strongly recommended by health professionals that both adults and children participate in a regular sport/physical activity due to the fantastic benefits to both physical and mental wellbeing.

However, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) warns that each year, thousands of adults and children are treated for dental injuries caused during sport that could have been prevented or minimised by simply wearing a mouthguard.

According to the AusPlay 2017 study, 55% of NSW children aged 0-14 years participated in sport at least once per week. Within the top 10 chosen sports were football, cricket, netball, basketball and rugby league. It also found that 69% of NSW adults participate in sport/physical activity at least twice per week. While these statistics are great news for our Nation’s health, and should ideally be even higher, it’s crucial that participants understand the importance of protecting their teeth and mouth during play.

Who needs a mouthguard?

The ADA strongly recommends the use of a mouthguard in any sport or activity where collision or contact is likely, during both games and training.

Some “contact sports” seem obvious, such as rugby union and league, AFL, hockey and boxing. However there is still a high risk of accidental collision in other sports that are often referred to as “non-contact”, such as cricket, basketball, netball, touch football, skating and soccer.

The ADA urges all players of the above (and other similar) sports, to consider a mouthguard a mandatory part of their sporting equipment, no matter their age or experience.

The damage

Dental trauma from sporting injury can include damage to the tooth nerve, fractured, cracked or knocked-out teeth, a broken jaw, and damage or cuts to the tongue and lips.

Often a single case of dental trauma can lead to a lifetime of dental treatment (and expenses) in order to maintain the strength and health of the damaged tooth/teeth.

The difference between custom-made and ‘over-the-counter’ mouthguards

A custom made-and-fitted mouthguard from your dentist is created from an impression and plaster model of your own unique dentition. It’s specially designed to fit the exact contours of your mouth, to balance your bite, and allow speech and normal breathing.

The ADA advises that a custom made-and-fitted mouthguard is the far superior choice. They provide the best protection, fit and comfort for all levels of sport. Only dental professionals can design and manufacture a custom made mouthguard that provides adequate protection.

In contrast, an ‘over-the-counter’, or ‘boil and bite’ mouthguard as they are sometimes called, can be purchased from a chemist or sports store. They include stock mouthguards that do not require fitting, and mouthguards that can be placed in hot water and then self-fitted by biting into them.

The ADA warns that ‘over-the-counter’ mouthguards are not recommended, and should not be used. They offer less protection, are often ill-fitting or loose in the mouth, can impede breathing and speaking, and can dislodge during play or impact – they can even wedge in the back of the throat during impact and become life threatening.

Alarmingly, a study conducted by the ADA in 2015 found that three in four (75%) active adults who do wear a mouthguard, wear uncertified ‘over-the-counter’ mouthguards, thinking that their teeth are protected while playing sport. It also found that one in two (53.3%) of parents let their children wear ‘over-the-counter’ mouthguards whilst playing sport.

In response to this study, the ADA urged “active adults and the parents of active children to visit their dentist before their next game and have a custom made mouthguard fitted — the only type of mouthguard recommended by dentists.”

How does a custom-fitted mouthguard work?

When there’s a direct blow to the lower part of your face (such as accidental collision or contact during sport), the force can travel through your jaw, teeth and even the upper part of your skull. Impacts to the lower jaw can also cause the jaws to slam together and damage both rows of teeth.

A custom-fitted mouthguard works by absorbing and spreading the impact of a damaging blow. They act as a buffer, with the spongy material helping to absorb the shock and therefore lessen the force applied to your teeth, jaws and skull.

By virtue of their exact fit, custom-fitted mouthguards let you talk normally, don’t restrict your breathing, stay firmly in place, and overall are a lot more comfortable than an ‘over-the-counter’ mouthguard.

Remember…

Many sports involve a contact risk, and therefore serious dental injury. These types of injuries are often difficult to treat, and can involve a lifetime of expenses. Prevention is always better than cure, so play it safe and wear a custom-fitted mouthguard.

To read more about custom fitted mouthguards at VC Dental, including our designs and colours available, please click here.


References:

  • NSW Office of Sport: Participation in sport and active recreation (https://sport.nsw.gov.au/sectordevelopment/participation)
  • Australian Dental Association: Mouthguards (https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Teens-12-17/Mouthguards)
  • Australian Dental Association: Play it Safe, Wear a mouthguard (https://www.ada.org.au/getattachment/Your-Dental-Health/Resources-for-Professionals/Resources-for-Teens-12-17/Play-it-safe-wear-a-mouthguard/Play-it-safe,-wear-a-mouthguard.pdf.aspx)
  • Australian Dental Association: “No Mouthguard, No Play” winners have reason to smile, 28 September 2015 (https://www.ada.org.au/News-Media/News-and-Release/ADA-in-the-News/No-Mouthguard,-No-Play-winners-have-reason-to-sm).