Dental Mouthguards For Sports — Do you really need them?

Football players in uniform
  • Jan 12 2017

Dental Mouthguards For Sports — Do you really need them?

It is estimated that 20 to 25 million youths participate in competitive sports.  As a result of this growth in participation levels, incidence of injury has also increased.  The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports dental injuries as the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during sports participation.  They contend that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard.  Often times these injuries will result in permanent damage to oral structures which require medical intervention.

The good news is dental injuries, especially relating to sports activities, can largely be prevented by using a mouthguard to protect your teeth. Most think that mouthguards only need to be worn during contact sports, but the American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouthguards for the following sports:

Acrobatics, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling. Other experts include baseball and softball infielders on that list.  They further recommend the mouthguard to be worn during all practices and competition.

How To Select A Mouthguard

There are 3 types of mouthguards:

  • Ready-made or stock mouthguard
  • Mouth-formed “boil and bite” mouthguard
  • Custom-made mouthguard made by a dentist

These mouthguards vary in price and comfort, yet all provide some protection.  According to the American Dental Association, the most effective mouthguard should be comfortable, resistant to tearing, and resilient. A mouthguard should fit properly, be durable, easily cleaned, and not restrict speech or breathing.

Mouthguards also need to be sanitized on a regular basis due the increase in bacteria that mouthguards can collect.

Experts now recommend four safety steps:

  • Replace regularly or when mouth guard becomes sharp or jagged.  A mouthguard should be replaced as soon as it becomes distorted or develops sharp jagged edges or after 14 days of regular use, whichever comes first;
  • Replace if oral irritation or ulcer. Because the molds from mouth guards may cause exercise-induced asthma and allergies, mouth guards should be replaced whenever an athlete develops any type of oral lesion (mouth sore) or respiratory distress;
  • Sanitize daily. Because mouth guards have a natural ability to become a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and mold, they should be sanitized on a daily basis using a commercially available antimicrobial denture-cleansing solution; and
  • Have regular oral exams. Athletes’ mouths should be examined on an ongoing basis while they are using mouth guards.

A Real-Life Story As Food For Thought

On April 17th there was an article on the front page of the sports section in the newspaper about a Grossmont High first baseman who caught a bad bounce and knocked out his two front teeth; fortunately they were able to place back in the mouth, but are unsure as to whether they will need root canals, crowns, or implants in the future.  His mother is attempting to raise ten thousand dollars in case it is for implants & crowns. To which I think, this could have all been avoided!  They are called sports guards because they can be used for almost any sport.

I was sitting in a restaurant discussing this at a meal with my friend, and he responded, “No way, baseball doesn’t wear guards.”  To my great surprise the waitress blurted out, “Well why not? All the basketball players wear them!”

So all I ask is for any kid or adult playing any kind of sport to help me protect their teeth by wearing mouthguards, and save themselves thousands of dollars!  It is important to remember damaged teeth do not grow back.  Protect that perfect smile – wear a mouthguard.

Should I Go To A Hospital or Dentist If I Have A Dental Emergency?

Dental emergencies can occur at anytime, and like other medical emergencies, they require different levels of care. Preparing for a dental emergency should become part of your basic first aid preparedness plan. Without proper knowledge of how to handle a dental emergency, a lost tooth may unfortunately become the least of your worries.

When To Head to the Hospital

Dental emergencies, or traumas involving the face and mouth, that require immediate medical attention include:

  • jaw fractures
  • jaw dislocations
  • serious lacerations of the soft tissues of the face and mouth an abscess or infection that is very swollen or that is impacting breathing or swallowing (particularly if you are immunocompromised)

Call 911 for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), or go directly to the hospital.

When To See the Dentist

There are other dental emergencies that are not considered life-threatening but that still may require immediate care.

  • broken or cracked tooth;
  • avulsed (lost/knocked out) tooth
  • Pain from a decayed or abscessed tooth (not swollen, not impacting breathing or swallowing)

These do not necessarily require treatment at a hospital.  Your dentist should be the first person you call. Hospitals are not equipped to provide you with the treatment necessary to restore a tooth or provide other dental treatment that may be required. That care should be sought quickly, but it needn’t be in an ER.

Dental emergencies do not always occur at an ideal time of day (as if there is one), so your dentist may not be able to see you when you need him to.  If the dental emergency occurs during non-business hours, on a weekend, or a holiday — and it is not considered life-threatening — always try calling your dentist before perusing alternative care options.  Many dentists provide their patients with after hours emergency care or an on-call substitute recommendation.  Call your dentist’s office and wait for the recorded message. If your dentist does provide his patients with after hours care, instructions for you to follow will be mentioned in the recording.

My emergency policy is such: When calling our Office (619-285-1200) after hours, you’ll hear a recording to call 911 if it’s a severe emergency, and for other dental emergencies, my cell phone will be provided to get a hold of me directly.

Dental emergencies should always be handled seriously.  Preparing yourself in advance to handle a dental emergency when one occurs is invaluable knowledge that every member of the family should possess.


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Posted in: Bridges, Cosmetic Dentistry, cosmetic dentists, Crowns, dentists, Full Mouth Rehabilitation, General Dentistry, Implants, Oral Care, Partials, Restorative Dentistry