CHICAGO —According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of the 7 million sports and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by those between 5 and 24 years old. In observance of National Childhood Injury Prevention Week, which is Sept. 1 to 7, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) encourages children who play contact sports to use a protective mouthguard to avoid mouth and facial injury.
“Sometimes parents do not understand the risk for serious dental injuries that can occur in their child’s sport,” says Raymond Martin, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the AGD. “A mouthguard can not only prevent broken or knocked out teeth, but also jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhage, and neck injuries by helping to avoid a situation where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw.”
Mouthguards are effective in moving soft tissue in the mouth away from the teeth, preventing cuts and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear braces. Mouthguards may also reduce the severity and incidence of concussions.
Although some are pricier than others, mouthguards come in a variety of price ranges to suit every family’s budget.
Dr. Martin feels that a custom-made mouthguard from a general dentist is the best option. “It offers the greatest protection, fit, and comfort level, because it is made from a cast to fit your child’s teeth,” he says. “The store-bought boil and bite mouthguards tend to move around, which can disrupt the child during play, and we all know that if a child doesn’t feel comfortable with the fit of a mouthguard, he or she won’t wear it.”
After choosing a mouthguard, maintaining its cleanliness is essential to preventing disease transmission and infection. Dr. Martin recommends brushing the mouthguard with toothpaste after each use or at least once a week and keeping it in a well-ventilated plastic storage case when it’s not in use. Heat is bad for a mouthguard, because it can cause the mouthguard to melt and lose its shape, so don’t leave it in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile on a warm day.
“Keeping a mouthguard clean and maintained is important to protecting an athlete,” adds Dr. Martin. “Just as a helmet or pads are used in some sports, a mouthguard should be another piece of equipment that should be worn to help prevent injury.”
For more information about mouthguards, visit www.KnowYourTeeth.com.