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.

Top 5 Teeth-Friendly Stocking Stuffers

As parents begin buying stocking stuffers this Christmas season, Delta Dental has a few suggestions for items that will make kids (and their dentists) smile while protecting those precious pearly whites.

  1. Xylitol-sweetened Chewing Gum: Sure, everyone loves some good peanut brittle around the holidays. But there is a sweet treat that can also improve children’s oral health. If brushing with fluoride toothpaste isn’t practical, chewing sugar-free gum after a meal stimulates saliva to buffer the acid and helps dislodge food particles from the mouth. Gum containing the natural sweetener, Xylitol, is a particularly good option since studies have shown that consistent exposure to Xylitol can help prevent tooth decay.
  2. Flavored Toothpaste: Children can tire of brushing with mint or bubblegum-flavored toothpastes. Fortunately, those aren’t the only toothpaste options on the market. Uniquely-flavored toothpaste varieties like bacon, chocolate, cupcake, ice cream– even pickle – can provide a change of pace and get kids excited again about the prospect of brushing their teeth. Always make sure the toothpaste contains fluoride to fight tooth decay.
  3. Flavored Floss: No oral hygiene routine is complete without flossing after brushing. Floss is normally pretty plain, but it doesn’t have to be. Like toothpaste, there is bacon, cupcake or pickled-flavored floss to match. If those flavors don’t do the trick, there are also mint, banana and cinnamon-flavored options for kids to enjoy.
  4. Fun Toothbrush Holder/Toothbrush: Another way to get children brushing is by stuffing the stocking with fun oral health gifts like robot, tree or animal-shaped toothbrush holders that stick to walls. Kids like the characters and the holder provides a valuable and sanitary storage spot for their toothbrushes and toothpaste. There, the kids can place their toothbrush with a princess, race car or superhero-shaped handle. There are even battery-powered “smart” toothbrushes that light up or play tunes to let kids know how long they need to brush.
  5. Sports Mouthguard: A recent study of America’s children’s oral health by Delta Dental1 found that 70 percent of kids do not wear a mouthguard during soccer, basketball or baseball/softball practices or games.  Mouthguards should be worn during practices and games by kids playing contact sports to reduce the risk of injury to the mouth, teeth and gums. The quality of the mouthguard should be the primary concern. There are a number of options at sporting goods stores including off-the-shelf sized and boil in water and mold into place. The ones that are custom fit by a dentist are the best. There are plenty of fun colors and designs available to coordinate with a uniform of any color.


Welcome to the launch of the official Delta Dental Plans Association blog. Delta Dental is the nation’s largest dental benefits provider serving more than 56 million Americans in more than 95,000 employee groups. We are also a not-for-profit company comprised of 39 independent member companies throughout the country. As active members of our respective communities, our companies invested more than $48 million in philanthropic oral health efforts in 2010.

This blog will dispense oral health tips and information from Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, our vice president of dental science and policy.  Dr. Kohn, the former director of the Division of Oral Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a well-respected voice in the dental industry with more than 30 years of experience.

Topics covered will include preventive dentistry; the connection between oral and overall health; proper personal dental hygiene; and industry trends. We encourage your input and feedback as we continue to serve as your dental experts.