With football season upon us, the growing concern about concussions has been a hot topic on the airwaves. However, while head injuries are a risk of this rigorous sport, any contact sport can lead to injuries of the head.
Although parents and coaches generally monitor the equipment worn during sports (pads, helmets, cleats, etc.), a mouth guard is often overlooked as an important component in the prevention of injury. Findings show they can make a significant difference when it comes to head contact.
Wearing a mouth guard during these sports is generally seen as a way to avoid broken or chipped teeth or even teeth that are “knocked out.” Yet, many people are unaware that the risk for concussion can be lessened by a mouth guard.
In addition to broken or lost teeth, head injuries from contact sports can include jaw breaks or fractures, cuts to the lips and tongue, fractured skull, and concussion. Studies show that a mouth guard can prevent or greatly soften the blow. What has shown to make the most difference, more so than the mere wearing of one, is the type of mouth guard.
According to the Center for Sports Concussion at Idaho State University: “Most mouth guards worn by young athletes are ‘boil and bite’ guards. They are purchased at sporting good stores, heated up and provide some dentition to an athlete’s mouth. For better results, consult your dentist or orthodontist.”(www.knowconcussion.org/about-concussion/the-first-line-of-protection/)
Along similar lines are results from a study of over 400 high school football players that found players who wore over-the-counter (OTC) mouth guards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injures or concussions than those who wore custom-made, properly fitted mouth guards.
Compliance is another advantage when it comes to custom-made mouthguards. When the fit is comfortable and conforms to the unique contours of a mouth, a player is more likely to wear it. The boil-&-bite versions tend to be bulkier, which can be a deterrent to being consistently worn. More concerning, however, is the fact that they are less apt to stay in place during play.
While football gets the most press when it comes to sports-related injuries, players of soccer, hockey (ice and field), rugby, lacrosse, and other activities are all opportunities for head injuries, including concussions. As a Sports Dentist, I’ve seen severe injuries (in adults and youth), even those not necessarily seen as ‘contact sports,’ such as tennis, baseball, volleyball, basketball, and sledding.
As awareness of head injuries and their long-term repercussions grows, Sports Dentistry will hopefully see more publicity on the role of mouth guards in preventing concussion and injuries to teeth and the mouth. Until then, please protect your children, players you coach, and yourself.
Making a custom-made mouth guard is very affordable and the process takes minimal time. Call 910-254-4555 to discuss one for yourself (or someone you love) or tap here to begin.
Dr. Gabe Rich, a Sports Dentist, has been featured in ESPN magazine and served as team dentist for the Carolina Hurricanes for over twenty years. He continues to provide dental care for the CFCC Sea Devils.