What’s the best thing about winter? For many, it’s sports. Outdoors, there’s skiing, snowboarding and hockey. Indoors, there’s basketball and wrestling, martial arts and boxing. One thing all these sports have in common is they’re contact sports. Whenever there are bodies in contact, there’s risk of injury.
Other activities often pursued in winter include gymnastics and skating. Just because they’re considered non-contact sports doesn’t mean the potential for injury isn’t there.
A simple mouthguard can help minimize a surprising number of potential injuries. Not only can it help protect teeth but also jaws, gums, lips, tongues and the linings of cheeks. There is also evidence they play a role in preventing head trauma.
Are Mouthguards Really Necessary?
Just like helmets and padding for joints, mouthguards play a large role in protecting our kids from preventable injuries. According to an American Dental Association (ADA) quiz, “Studies show that athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth if they’re not wearing a mouthguard.” That’s a significant number.
Types of Mouthguards
There are 3 basic types of mouthguards:
- Stock – This is the most inexpensive. What you see is what you get. They are preformed and ready to be worn. Just like one-size-fits-all clothing, though, they often don’t fit well.
- Boil-and-Bite – These should fit better than the stock mouthguards because you soften them in hot water then insert them, so they adapt to the shape of each mouth. When choosing a brand, look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
- Custom Made – These mouthguards are fitted to each individual’s mouth by a dentist who takes into consideration each person’s unique needs and the particular sport. This option is more expensive, but the end product will fit better and be less bulky. If you wear braces or have a dental appliance, your dentist may recommend protection for lower teeth as well. This is the type of mouthguard recommended by the Academy for Sports Dentistry.
How They Work
It has long been thought that mouthguards help absorb shocks from direct hits to jaws and help stabilize the head and neck area. So, not only do they help mitigate a concussion to the teeth from a direct hit to the mouth, that protection extends to the rest of the face, head and upper spine. Now, there’s evidence of more.
According to the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute (NRI), a study published in the General Dentistry journal in 2014 found twice as many high school football players wearing over-the-counter mouthguards suffered mild traumatic brain injuries as those athletes who wore custom mouthguards. This study followed six high school football teams with a total of 412 players. Of those players, 220 were randomly assigned (three of the teams) to wear custom mouth guards and 192 (the other three teams) wore their own choice of store mouthguards.
If you would like to consult with our pediatric dental specialists at Gallatin Valley Pediatric Dentistry, we would be happy to discuss your child’s mouthguard needs for winter sports.