The Reasons Why All Young Athletes Should Wear a Mouthguard
Even though child athletes without protective mouthguards are 60 times more likely to suffer mouth and facial trauma, a recent survey found that just 32 percent of youth football players and 11 percent of hockey and lacrosse players wear these guards. Mouthguards help soften an impact to the face that could cause broken, chipped or lost teeth, jaw injuries or cuts to the lip, tongue, or face.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and Dr. Priscilla Larson of Sky Orthodontics recommend custom-made protective mouthguards because the benefits far outweigh any discomfort or inconvenience.
The Benefits of Mouthguards
“Mouthguards for children and teens involved in sports are the best way to avoid physical and financial stress,” Dr. Larson said. “They protect the teeth as well as the gums, jaw, and jawbones from impact injuries especially common in team sports.”
According to the AAPD, protective mouthguards must be worn for all sports. But the most common causes of dental trauma in any sport is a ball to the mouth or a blow from an opposing player. Football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, boxing, and martial arts are the sports where kids and teens most commonly sustain dental injuries. The American Dental Association has found that mouthguards may also reduce the rate and severity of concussions.
All Mouthguards are Not the Same
There, is a general belief that all mouthguards are the same. However, as the old adage states, you get what you pay for. Typically with mouthguards, the higher the price, the better the design technology and materials.
“Parents need to understand that the cost of repairing even a chipped tooth can be up to 10 times the cost of a higher-end mouthguard,” said Dr. Larson. “Store-bought mouthguards provide little to no protection due to loose or improper fit.”
Comfort is a Key Consideration with Mouthguards
Custom mouthguards fit better and therefore are more comfortable than the inexpensive ones. The more comfortable the mouthguard, the more likely your young athlete will be to wear it.
If you cannot afford a custom mouthguard, visit your local sporting goods store and buy a mouth-formed or “boil and bite” guard. These guards provide more protection than a pre-formed generic guard, but less than a custom guard.
However, Dr. Larson enjoys giving back to her community and offers one free custom mouth guard a year to young athletes.
What You Need to Consider When Buying a Mouthguard
There are a few things to consider when purchasing a mouthguard.
- Be sure that it is fitted to the young athlete’s teeth. Follow any instructions included with the mouthguard if you are not getting a custom guard.
- Your athlete must want to wear it. They need to think it looks cool. Most young athletes are less concerned with the protection aspect of the mouthguard than they are with the appearance of it.
Custom Mouthguards – as Good for the Kids as they are for the Pros
Custom mouthguards for young athletes are made with the same care and consideration as the custom mouthguards of professional athletes. Mouthguards should fit well, be comfortable and protect without affecting speech and breathing no matter the age of the athlete or the level of competition.
If your child has trouble with a gag reflex, check to ensure the mouthguard fits well. The more a mouthguard moves in the mouth, the more likely it is to create a gag reflex. The proper fit also takes into consideration that the mouthguard does not extend too far onto the palate (roof of the mouth) or extend past the last tooth.
The Sports with the Highest Incidence of Facial Trauma – Not What You Think
“Orofacial trauma is highest in athletes ages 8 to 14 and most often occurs in basketball and soccer,” Dr. Larson said. “If your child wears or has worn braces or a retainer, it is even more necessary to have a quality mouthguard. All too often, parents and kids go through the time and expense of orthodontic treatment to get the perfect smile only to have it ruined by traumatic injuries that could be prevented by wearing a custom mouthguard.” (We don’t want to push custom mouthguards for braces bc by the next time they have an adj the mouth guard no longer fits. So until they are out of braces we will give them one free general mouthguard.)
To learn more about custom mouthguards, schedule a consultation with Dr. Larson by calling the office in Moore at (405) 378-4774 or Shawnee at (405) 275-3800. Or, request an appointment online.