Dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during participation in sports; the majority of these dental injuries are preventable. In fact, it is estimated that faceguards and mouthguards prevent approximately 200,000 injuries each year in high school and college football. This is because an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard. Cost must also be considered as the cost of a fractured tooth is many times greater than the cost of a professionally made mouthguard. For example, the cost to replant an avulsed tooth and the follow-up dental treatment is about $5000.
Sports Dentistry involves the prevention and treatment of orofacial athletic injuries and related oral diseases, as well as the collection and dissemination of information on dental athletic injuries and the encouragement of research in the preventive of such injuries. Sports dentistry also addresses the prevention of oral cancer by encouraging the cessation of tobacco and smokeless tobacco use.
To combat orofacial injuries The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouthguards for the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field Hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, wrestling.
Mouth guards create a cushion that provides potential stabilization of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) while also helping to prevent injury to the joint. In addition, they reduce the type of injury affecting the soft tissues — such as the lips and gum tissues surrounding the teeth. In general, mouthguards can help protect against serious injuries, including those to the face and head.
A custom sports mouthguard can be made and delivered in two appointments. Typical guards are made of a flexible rubber and cover the top teeth allowing for free movement of the lower jaw. However, some guards cover upper and lower teeth and have a breathing hole in between. Depending on the sport, different thicknesses of material are required. As a child athlete grows, the mouthguard may not fit and need to be remade. Adults can wear their mouthguard for years or until it is too worn and damaged to provide protection or relief.
Fun Fact: Dr. Morelli was on the sports dentistry team during dental school at the University of Southern California. Ask him about the best options regarding mouthguards and he would love to share his knowledge.