The Importance of Mouthguards for Young Athletes
It is a sad fact that a good number of young athletes don’t wear mouthguards. It’s not all that surprising. Mouthguards aren’t the #1 personal accoutrement for a young person trying to make a good impression on their peers. But this can have lasting effects on their smile, and their health, for years to come. Mouthguards are essential for reducing the risk of oral injury. And unfortunately, we’re not just talking about cosmetic dentistry here.
Sport related oral injuries can include relatively minor issues – such as abrasions and damaged blood vessels or soft tissue cuts to the to the tongue, lips, gum, and cheeks – all the way up to much more challenging issues. Think cracked or lost teeth, teeth pushed out of socket, fractures to crowns, roots, jawbones and cheekbones. These sorts of injuries can lead to complications that can last a lifetime, not to mention expensive dental procedures.
To bring this home a bit more, let’s look at some of the statistics. A recent study by the Children’s Oral Health Survey found that more than half of young basketball players, baseball players, soccer players, gymnasts, skiers, and volleyball players go without a mouthguard when playing their sports.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Baseball: 70%
- Basketball: 72%
- Gymnastics: 79%
- Skiing: 61%
- Soccer: 71%
- Volleyball: 65%
Remember, these statistics are for the young athletes that don’t wear mouthguards. To put this into perspective, this translates to nearly 37 million children 12 years or under who are playing soccer regularly without the protection of a mouthguard. And these are the worst numbers, by sport, but there are several others that bear consideration as well.
- Boxing: 34%
- Football: 26%
- Field Hockey: 34%
- Ice Hockey: 38%
- Lacrosse: 40%
- Rugby: 48%
Higher contact sports also show a higher incidence of young athletes that use mouthguards, but the same rick of oral injury applies, regardless of the sport they play. It might not be the most snazzy piece of sports equipment, but it is one of the most essential pieces of protective gear.
What can your dentist do to help?
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. So, here’s a bit that we at The Bondi Dentists can do to help the issue.
First of all, it’s important to educate your young athlete about the importance of mouthguards. It’s a no brainer that they help to prevent painful and unsightly damage to your teeth, the need for costly restorative dentistry, and more. That’s a huge plus all on its own. But it doesn’t end there.
Another huge benefit of mouthguards is that they stabilise the muscles neck muscles, reduce movement in the case of direct impact to the jaw, and reduce the impact of shocks to the head. One effect this has is to reduce the likelihood of concussion and other brain trauma. Another is to prevent injuries to the delicate cervical vertebrae of the neck. All of this is in addition to the benefit it offers your teeth. Plus, the thicker the mouthguard, the more protection it offers.
Another way that a qualified dental professional can help is to provide a custom mouthguard. Studies of high school football teams have shown custom mouthguards to be more than 200% as effective as generic mouthguards in preventing mTBI and concussion injuries in young athletes.
If you have any questions about how to protect your young athlete’s teeth, or would like to know more about oral health, please feel free to contact us. At The Bondi Dentists, we know that a whiter smile and healthy mouth are the first keys to a healthy, happy life.