With the back-to-school rush behind us, many of our patients have started an exciting Fall Sports season. While many students in our community are focusing on grabbing the latest trends in sportswear and equipment, I have been fielding a lot of questions from parents (OK, and the occasional conscientious student) about mouthguards. As I frequently tell parents, because all the research points to the protective benefits that a mouthguard can provide, any student athlete playing contact sports should wear a mouthguard during practices and games.
The mouth and face of an athlete can be easily injured if the proper precautions are not taken while participating in sports or recreational activities. The stats are staggering... Student athletes have a 10% chance of suffering a facial or dental injury while on the playing field and almost one-third of all dental injuries are sports-related. What surprises parents is that these dental injuries can lead to a lifetime of dental visits and treatments to restore and maintain the teeth. The good news is that many of these injuries are preventable... According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an athlete is 70 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard.
Wearing a mouthguard provides cushion during an impact and can reduce trauma to the teeth, lips, tongue, face, and jaws. Most frequently, a mouthguard prevents broken and chipped teeth, reduces the likelihood of teeth being knocked out, and reduces the instances of jaw fractures.
Wearing a mouthguard is especially important for student athletes in braces and Invisalign. Sports injuries can be exacerbated by braces when there is contact between the cheeks or lips and the braces. A mouthguard can act as a barrier between the braces and the cheeks or lips, which reduces the risk of lacerations (like cuts that can cause bleeding) or more significant injuries to the mouth. For this reason, orthodontists generally recommend special mouthguards that are designed to fit over braces and Invisalign, so student athletes can continue on the road to a beautiful smile without giving up the activities they love.
According to the American Dental Association, "more than half of the 7 million sports and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by children as young as 5 years old... The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) forecasted that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events" on an annual basis. We recommend that our patients begin to wear a mouthguard during contact sports as soon as their permanent teeth begin to erupt in the mouth, typically around 6-7 years of age (around the age most kids first visit an orthodontist).
While snagging a good lacrosse helmet, baseball/softball bat, or soccer cleats may be your student athlete's focus, a mouthguard is one of the most important (and inexpensive) pieces of sports equipment available. If you want your student athlete to smile like an All Star, it is strongly recommended that you add a mouthguard to your gear list.
Karen Conn, DMD, MS is a Board-certified orthodontist and co-owner of Bryn Mawr Orthodontics (Bryn Mawr, PA), where she specializes in Invisalign and braces for children, teens and adults. She has been recognized as a Philadelphia Magazine Top Dentist, Suburban Family Top Orthodontist, and is among the nation’s top 1% of Invisalign providers. Dr. Conn received her undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her residency in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics at Temple University, where she also earned a master's degree in Oral Biology.
Bryn Mawr Orthodontics serves its neighbors in Bryn Mawr, Gladwyne, Villanova, Ardmore, Haverford, Wynnewood, Narberth, Radnor, Penn Valley, Bala Cynwyd, Merion, Wayne, and the entire Main Line.