[Editor's Note: As you know, from time to time we like to divert our attention away from coverage of specific sports events and fantasy sports to provide useful health and fitness information for the sportsman (or woman). One way that we do this is with our Trainer's Room series. Â In this post, guest author Dr. Lee Fitzgerald, a Dallas dental implants specialist, discusses a topic that probably at one time or another annoyed us all back when we played high school athletics: mouthguards.
For those of you who still play competitive sports, or who have graduated to watching your kids play competitive sports, this post provides a good, succinct analysis for why wearing a sports mouth guard, while possibly annoying, certainly is not overrated. Besides, LeBron James wears a mouth guard while playing his sport of choice. What further endorsement could a Midwest sports fan need?]
Wearing a mouthguard can seem uncomfortable and a bit overrated until the moment you realize it could have prevented both pain and frustration.
With school back in session, high school and college athletes are heading out to practice again. Sports related injuries are inevitable. Wearing a sports mouthguard can be instrumental in preventing many of the injuries that come as a result of blows to the head, face, and jawbone.
Wearing a mouthguard while participating in your sport of choice can save you from unnecessary dental injuries, protect the jaw, prevent cuts to the cheek and tongue, and help you avoid serious injuries to the roots and bone that hold your teeth in place. Perhaps most importantly, wearing a mouth guard can also help to prevent concussions.
As a dentist that has practiced general dentistry, oral surgery, cosmetic dentistry, and dental implants, I often see sports related injuries. These cases often need significant dental repair. Often times these injuries could have been avoided by simply wearing a mouthguard.
In 1962 mouthguards became a requirement for high school and college football. As a result, the percentage of mouth injuries dropped from 50% to 0.5%. Although mouth guards are not required in all sports, all athletes should wear them. The risk for a dental sports related injury is greater in other sports than it is in football. For instance, only 7% of basketball players wear mouth guards, but the risk in basketball for injury to the face, mouth, and jawbone is actually greater.
If you are planning on wearing a mouthguard, there are a few different types of mouth guards to consider. Each type has some level of protection, but they are not all equal in effectiveness.
Types of Mouthguards:
- Custom Made Mouthguards: These mouthguards are formed to your teeth at the dental office and are proven to be the best protection, although they are the most expensive option.
- Mouth Formed Mouthguards: These guards are put into boiling water and then placed in the athleteâ€™s mouth to form to the contours of the teeth. These mouthguards are not as flexible as the custom made guards. Most mouth formed guards provide adequate protection.
- Ready-Made Mouthguards: These mouthguards are sold over-the-counter. They are the least expensive option, least comfortable, and the least effective. Dentists do not recommend them.
As you are planning your new season of athletics, remember that whether you are a gymnast, basketball player, football player, hockey player or volleyball player, wearing a mouthguard should be a priority.
Dr. Lee FitzgeraldÂ is a graduate of the University of Texas and the Baylor College of Dentistry. Â He has practiced cosmetic and implant dentistry for over 25 years and is one of Dallasâ€™s top implant dentists.
Dr. Fitzgerald also lectures and mentors young dentists interested in advanced implant and cosmetic dentistry, and currently practices implant dentistry in Plano, Texas at his Dental Implant Center.
He is the former President of the Dallas County Dental Society, andÂ Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, aÂ Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, aÂ Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, aÂ Fellow International College of Dentists, and a sustaining member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
* – LeBron James photo credit: Reuters via DayLife
* – Mouthguard photo credit: OralHealthForAll