CDA recommends mouthguards to protect teeth from sports-related injuries

From skateboarding to water polo, all athletes risk dental trauma
August 14, 2023
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As the new school year begins, students are returning not only to classrooms but also to sports activities that could place them at risk for dental injuries. Mouthguards are mandatory for football players, but most sports don’t require protective mouthpieces. The California Dental Association is urging parents to ensure their children of all ages, in all sports, wear properly fitted mouthguards to protect their teeth from sports-related dental injuries.

“I have many examples of children, teenagers and adults who have presented to my office with oral/facial trauma, including the loss or displacement of a permanent tooth, due to sports-related injuries,” said CDA President John Blake, DDS, executive director and dental director of the Children’s Dental Health Clinic in Long Beach. “All of my football-playing patients wear mouthguards, but athletes who play sports that may not require mouthguards are also susceptible to injuries.”
Different sports involve different levels of risk and potential injury, so wearing a mouthguard is an important precaution for athletes of any age and ability. Dr. Blake has treated dental trauma from most contact sports – soccer, basketball, baseball, boxing, MMA, rugby, lacrosse and water polo – but also noncontact sports like skateboarding. One of his patients suffered a skateboarding injury that caused trauma to two teeth at the front of his mouth – teeth that are important for speech and smile appearance.

“A technical skate trick went awry and he fell, hitting his front teeth on the pavement or skate feature (bar/bench),” Blake said. “He fractured the crown of a front tooth and fractured several other teeth at the front of his mouth. Since then, he has been through many dental visits and procedures, all from a trauma that would have most likely resulted in a bloody lip had he been wearing a mouthguard.”

Designed to help cushion the mouth, teeth and jaw, mouthguards can prevent significant damage, such as the skateboarder experienced, to the mouth where sports injuries are most prevalent. But to be most effective, the mouthguard must fit properly and stay in place during vigorous activity, Blake said. He recommends parents seek advice from their dentist for the best possible mouthguard fit.

Choosing the best mouthguard
Mouthguards vary in fit, protection, ease of maintenance and longevity, depending on the design and materials used. Three basic types of mouthguards are currently available: custom-made, mouth-formed and ready-made stock.

  • Custom-made mouthguards are formed by a dentist from a cast model of the teeth. Designed to cover all the teeth, they can cushion falls and blows to the chin. These mouthguards may be slightly more expensive than commercially produced mouthpieces, but they offer the best possible fit and protection and are the most comfortable.
  • Mouth-formed mouthguards are generally made of acrylic gel or thermoplastic materials. They are placed in boiling water then shaped to fit the contours of your teeth. These mouthguards are commercially produced and do not offer the same fit and protection as a custom-fitted mouthguard.
  • Ready-made stock mouthguards are commercially produced and made of rubber or polyvinyl. They can be purchased at most sporting goods store and are the least expensive option. However, they’re also the least comfortable and least effective of protective mouthpieces.

Other tips for protecting teeth

In addition to mouthguards, CDA also recommends parents and children protect their teeth year round by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day, flossing daily, avoiding sugary drinks like soda and visiting the dentist regularly. Also recommended is the use of sealants – a thin protective coating applied by a dentist that shields the chewing surfaces of the back teeth from cavity-causing bacteria.

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