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Preventing Dental Trauma during Sporting Events

If your child plays sports, consider keeping dental emergencies at bay by using a mouthguard. In the Management of Dental Trauma in a Primary Care Setting, the study noted that 30% of children had experienced dental injury by 14. She notes that the injured child goes to a physician or pediatrician instead of a dentist because few emergency departments have a dentist on-call. Without the right measures in place, this may complicate the healing process, as the injured tooth usually has a limited time frame for survival.

For this reason, most pediatricians and pediatric dentists may prescribe preventive measures to lessen this risk, mainly if the child is active in sports. How, then, can you prevent dental trauma during sporting events?

Know the risks each sport has

When it comes to preventive measures, usually the best course of action is to assume that there will be risk involved. However, not all games carry the same susceptibility. For instance, a chess player might be less likely to sustain dental trauma than an American football player typically does. 

Assessing the risk involved with your child’s sport, then, can not only help you plan the needed preventive measures accordingly. It also prevents you from making unnecessary purchases. Putting preventive measures in place before your child engages in a sport can cut down their injury risk and succeed in treatment costs. But buying a helmet when your child only needs a mouthguard might put an extraneous strain on your finances.  

When evaluating the risk factor, it’s always best to consult a professional before your child engages in a particular sport. For dental issues, you might want to ask your child’s pediatric dentist.

Choose the right protective gear

Once you’ve assessed the risk involved in your child’s sport, the next step is to find the right gear for their needs. Some sports have strict rules on what type of equipment is allowed on the playing field. These regulations are also something you’ll need to take into consideration. 

It’s then helpful to know the options you have at hand and what you can use them for. Currently, there are three options to consider:

  • Face cage. You typically use them in contact sports such as rugby and martial arts. Face cages prevent harmful contact to the face. However, they are not permitted in all types of sports, so make sure that you’re familiar with the rules and regulations of your child’s chosen game.  
  • Helmet. Helmets are usually paired up with face cages to protect the full skull. But some sports uniforms do not have the cage in their helmets. Regardless, helmets prevent harm to the head, which may be life-threatening. 
  • Mouthguard. Aside from being permitted in all types of sports, a mouthguard is also the most prescribed method of preventing dental trauma. However, whatever game your child chooses, you might want to buy a custom mouthguard instead of a commercial one for maximum protection.  

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends mouthguards for all children and youth participating in formal sports activities.

In addition, the American Dental Association has also called for the wearing of mouthguards in 29 sports, including boxing, volleyball, rugby, basketball, and gymnastics. 

Mouthguards are essential to athletes, particularly because of the high chance of injury while playing. Also, mouthguards prevent dental-related injuries like tooth fracture, luxation, avulsion, and jaw injury. In a study done on a Florida high school basketball team, 31 percent of the response sustained orofacial injuries during a season. The study found that the risk of sustaining orofacial injury without a mouthguard increase by almost seven-fold.

Mouthguards also act as a shock absorber which can prevent injuries or at least the intensity of such. Aside from this, using mouthguards in sports prevents a concussion due to a head injury. By preventing injuries and worst-case scenarios with mouthguards, athletes can save money from dental treatments; nearly $500 million are spent on emergency dental care each year. 

There are three types of mouthguards people can use. Slight differences in fit, adjustments, and price characterize each category but perform the same function of protecting the teeth. The types include custom-fit, boil-and-bite, and stock.

Custom-Fit Mouthguards: Dental professionals often recommend this type of mouthguard. In a study, fewer athletes suffered from mild traumatic brain injuries when wearing custom-fitted mouthguards than over-the-counter mouthguards.

A custom mouthguard is customized to suit each individual and is designed by a professional. Thus, they make for a perfect fit. However, custom mouthguards are pricier. They may amount to approximately 300 US dollars due to the extra work, time, and unique material involved in their creation. Though they are heavier in the pocket, they offer ultimate protection and comfort for the user.

Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards: This type of mouthguard is available in sporting goods stores and manufactured using thermoplastic. Boil-and-bite mouth guards can be molded around the teeth to acquire the fit.

Stock Mouthguards: A stock mouthguard can be bought for approximately just 10 US dollars. This type of mouthguard is pre-formed. It is also ready to use and found in department stores or sporting goods.

But despite its lower price, stock mouthguards may pose problems to the users. They are not easily adjustable and may result in difficulty in speech. This type is also less recommended by dentists since it only provides little protection.

What should I consider when getting a mouthguard?

Regardless of the type, opt for an efficient protector. A mouthguard must have the capability to provide comfort. It must also be convenient to use and must not hamper your speech nor breathing. Wearing a mouthguard should not be painful.

Mouthguards are usually designed for the upper teeth. But in some cases, mouthguards for the lower teeth may be created. Mouthguards for the lower teeth help the patient who wears fixed dental appliance on his lower jaw or uses braces.


How can I take care of my mouthguard?

To maximize your mouthguard usage and avoid bacteria from infecting it, proper care and management are necessary.

  • Thoroughly rinse the mouthguard with a mouth rinse or cold water before and after use.
  • Clean it with a toothbrush and mild soap or toothpaste.
  • Store it in a perforated and firm container, which allows air circulation,
  • If the mouthguard causes discomfort and does not fit anymore, replace it.
  • Please keep it away from direct sunlight or high temperature to avoid shape distortion.
  • Consult with your dentist to ensure that the mouthguard is right for you.

Using oral appliances may have some side effects like saliva accumulation and teeth tenderness. Teeth movements, problems with the mandible muscles and joint, and changes in the bite may also be observed over time.

Mouthguards Have Other Uses

Helps with Teeth Grinding

Aside from sports, mouthguards can help prevent cracks or fractures to the teeth due to teeth grinding.

Mouthguards and Sleep Apnea

Besides athletes, mouth guards are also helpful for people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a medical condition consisting of temporary oxygen shortages that last for at least 10 seconds during sleep.

The oxygen deficiencies are the effect of airflow blockage. They may also be due to a loss in stability and inward relaxation of soft tissues and muscles in the throat’s back while sleeping.

Lack of oxygen supply interrupts the body. It prompts the brain to pull the person from sleep to reopen the airway and resume normal breathing. Without treatment, OSA can lead to complications to other infirmities. These might include diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart problems, insomnia, acid reflux and worst, death.

People suffering from OSA can receive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP uses a machine to help the OSA sufferer breathe more easily during sleep.

Use of a mouth guard-like device, usually referred to as an oral appliance may also be employed. The mouthguards are recommended for patients with mild to moderate cases of OSA and have difficulty responding to CPAP.

The mouth guard is custom-fit in a dental office. The oral appliance comes in two forms: tongue restraining devices (TRD) and mandibular advancement devices (MAD).

TRD controls the tongue from reclining to the back of the throat, improving the upper airway’s patency. On the other hand, MAD clasps the lower and upper teeth, like that of conventional mouthguards. This type of oral appliance repositions the lower mandible or jaw in an advanced position. It will then pull the tongue forward since it rests on the front of the lower jaw.

These oral appliances are not suitable for those with severe OSA. The procedure must also be done by experienced and trained dental practitioners since extensive knowledge and familiarity are required.

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