Mouthguards are a Must

The leaves have fallen and winter is here. With the change in season, contact sports like basketball, wrestling and hockey have taken center stage.

These sports pose a risk of injury to the mouths of kids. Contrary to recommendations by dentists, however, most American children don’t wear mouthguards while playing such activities. That’s one of the key findings from a survey1 of American children’s oral health conducted earlier this year by Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA).

Although mouthguards are only mandatory for some youth sports, such as ice hockey, football and lacrosse, dental professionals recommend they be worn for all athletic activities where there is a strong potential for contact with other participants or hard surfaces.

But nearly seven out of 10 Americans (68 percent) report that their child does not wear a mouthguard at soccer, basketball, baseball and softball practices or games. And some studies show that today’s basketball players are about 5 times more likely to sustain an orofacial injury than football players.2-3

Only about four out of 10 (44 percent) say that their child wears a mouthguard for hockey practice and games, which is mandatory. Even more alarming, nearly two out of 10 children (22 percent) only wear a mouthguard at games, not practice. According to Safe Kids USA, most organized sports-related injuries occur during practice rather than games.3 DDPA advises kids playing contact sports to wear mouthguards during practices and games.

There are multiple options to consider when purchasing a mouthguard for a child.

  • Stock mouthguards are relatively inexpensive and have a pre-formed shape. But since the fit can’t be adjusted, they’re less effective than a fitted option.
  • Mouth-formed mouthguards can be purchased at many sporting goods stores, and can be molded to the individual’s mouth, usually by boiling the mouthguard in hot water to soften the plastic.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are considered the best option but are the most expensive. Since they’re made by your dentist from a mold of your teeth, they fit tightly and correctly.

Still, if cost is a factor, any mouthguard is better than none at all.

1Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

2Cohenca N, Roges RA, Roges R. The incidence and severity of dental trauma in intercollegiate athletes. J Am Dent Assoc. 2007 Aug;138(8):1121-6.

3Labella CR, Smith BW, Sigurdsson A. Effect of mouthguards on dental injuries and concussions in college basketball. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Jan;34(1):41-4.


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