Dental injuries are among the most common injuries that occur during sport, leisure and recreation activities, with young people most at risk.
The types of injuries incurred include:
• Chipped, broken or knocked out teeth
• Fractured crowns or bridgework
• Root damage to the teeth
• Cuts to lips, gums, tongue or cheeks
• Fractured or broken jaws
Any athlete may be at risk of dental injury, but these can be prevented with the use of a mouth guard.
A mouth guard is a soft plastic or laminate appliance made of flexible material that fits snugly over the teeth. A proper fitting mouth guard protects the jaw joint, neck, and the teeth upon impact. It acts as a shock absorber protecting the teeth and lower jaw from breaking and prevents you from accidentally biting your lips, tongue or cheeks – so reducing the risk of oral injuries and concussion.
Many people do not wear a mouth guard while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them – one of the most important areas, your mouth, is generally left exposed. A mouthguard should be a necessary part of the sports equipment for children and adults in any sport where there is a chance of contact with the face or head. They are particularly important when playing contact sports such as football, wrestling, volleyball, soccer, basketball and hockey and boxing where the risk of injury is likely. If you are taking part in non-contact sports such as gymnastics or recreational activities such as skateboarding, mountain biking, rollerblading, trampolining and horse riding, water skiing wearing a protective mouth guard is also advised.
There are three types of sports mouth guards
The least expensive are available at sports stores – either off the shelf, or a ‘boil and bite’ that you can slightly customise, although these tend to be bulky and as a result can make it difficult to breathe.
A custom sports mouth guard made by a dentist or orthodontist is considered by many to be the most protective option. It should fit properly and comfortably, be durable, easy to clean and should not restrict speech or breathing. Removable retainers or other removable appliances should not be worn during any contact sport and a mouthguard is recommended for people who wear braces as it provides a barrier between the braces and cheek or lips.
Dental injuries can be painful, disfiguring and expensive to treat but the chances of a sports-related injury to the mouth and jaw are minimised by wearing a mouth guard.