Youth sports programs have many benefits for children and teenagers, but sports aren’t without risk. Dental injuries are an often-overlooked risk of participating in youth sports, and it’s one that parents should prepare their children for. Thankfully, there’s an inexpensive and effective way to greatly reduce the likelihood of dental injuries — wearing a professionally fitted mouthguard.
Millions of Sports-Related Dental Injuries Occur Annually
The occurrence of dental injuries in youth sports is both substantial and widespread. According to the Journal of the American Dental Association somewhere between 11 and 39 percent of all dental injuries are sports-related.
Another study, published in Sports Health, examined the issue of youth sports dental injuries in greater detail. This study found that more than 5 million teeth are avulsed (pulled or torn away) in youth sports each year. The total immediate cost of these injuries is more than $5 million, and the lifetime cost to a child who has an avulsed tooth will be anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000.
Moreover, these numbers and costs don’t take into account the other dental injuries that children can sustain while playing sports. Soft tissue lacerations (e.g. cuts lip), crown fractures (broken teeth) and tooth subluxation (tooth dislocation) are all real risks.
As might be expected, the latter study found that contact sports posed the greatest risk of dental injury. Rugby, football, hockey, boxing, martial arts and basketball were all noted for having elevated risks of injury. Injuries also occur in non-contact sports.
Mouthguards Offer Effective Protection Against Dental Injuries
While the risk of injury can’t be completely eliminated from youth sports, mouthguards offer effective and affordable protection against tooth avulsions and the other noted injuries. There’s a reason why the National Federation of State High School Associations requires all high school athletes who play lacrosse, football, ice hockey or field hockey to wear mouthguards. (Wrestlers who have braces must also wear mouthguards.)
By encasing the teeth in a protective layer, mouthguards prevent the top and bottom teeth from hitting against each other. Guards also provide a protective casing for the teeth, and they can even stop sharp edges of braces from lacerating another player (which is why wrestlers with braces must wear them).
The effectiveness of mouthguards becomes readily evident when comparing dental injuries in full-contact sports to those sustained in basketball. The study in Sports Health found that injuries were five times more common in basketball — a sport where many athletes don’t wear mouthguards — than they were in football.
Mouthguards Are Available in Three Types
Athletes who need mouthguards have three basic options. They come as:
- Preformed Mouthguards, which can’t be adjusted to fit the teeth
- Semi-Custom Mouthguards, which are boiled and somewhat molded to the mouth
- Custom Mouthguards, which are perfectly fit by a dentist in their office
Of these options, custom mouthguards offer the highest level of protection for a couple of reasons.
First, custom mouthguards are the most likely to be used because they’re the most comfortable to wear. A mouthguard is only effective when it’s actually in a player’s mouth, so comfort is a primary consideration no matter what other features a guard offers.
Second, custom-fit guards can be expertly molded around each individual tooth and braces (if a player has braces). This ensures that the guard provides the best possible protection for every tooth in a player’s mouth.
Custom Mouthguards Are Often Covered by Insurance
Thanks to dental insurance, custom mouthguards are usually quite affordable for families. Most dental plans will partially or fully cover custom mouth guards, sometimes letting families get much better protection for not a lot more out of pocket.
If you have a child or teen who participates in youth sports, schedule an appointment for a custom mouthguard fitting with a dentist. They’ll be able to make sure your child’s teeth are well protected whenever your child is on the court, field or rink.
Triangle Dentistry, located in Raleigh, NC, provides a state-of-the-art facility that offers exceptional general dental and specialty services guided by empathy of a patient’s needs and desires. Services range from dental crowns to veneers and whitening procedures. For further information, questions, or to schedule an appointment, contact the office at (919) 747-3608.