When your children sign up for sports, you want them to have fun while learning life-enriching skills. Unfortunately, traumatic dental injuries can be a painful and expensive risk of sports. By giving your children well-fitting athletic mouthguards, you decrease that risk significantly.
To make an informed decision about whether your child or teen needs a mouthguard, discuss these statistics, dental injury risks, and types of mouthguards with your child’s dentist.
Dental Injuries in Children’s Sports
Data collected over a 13-year period by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry shows that 22,000 cases of sports-related dental trauma occur annually in children under 18. For school-sanctioned contact sports such as football, hockey, and lacrosse, mouthguard usage is mandatory. Baseball, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball teams typically don’t require children to wear them.
That doesn’t mean that these sports are completely free from dental injury risk. In fact, the same AAPD study found that baseball and basketball account for a large number of dental injuries in children and teens.
During non-contact sports, falls and accidental collisions may cause dental damage. The AAPD highlights skating, biking, gymnastics, and trampoline usage as high-risk activities.
Common Types of Sports-related Dental Injuries
Whether your children participate in contact or non-contact sports, the most common forms of dental trauma suffered by children include:
- Tooth and crown fractures
- Intrusion, or a tooth being driven into another bone
- Extrusion is when the tooth is loose but partially remains in its socket
- Total tooth removal, known as avulsion
- Jaw injuries and displacement
- Soft tissue damage
A mouthguard prevents these injuries by keeping teeth from coming into contact with each other, sports equipment, other players, or softer parts of the mouth. Despite being a widely-available piece of equipment, surveys show that about 70% of children in certain sports don’t use athletic mouthguards.
Types of Mouthguards
There are three types of athletic mouthguards for children and teens available. They all fit onto the top row of teeth.
You may buy inexpensive, ready-to-wear mouthguards at sporting goods stores, but they are often bulky and ill-fitting. They make breathing difficult and provide minimal protection.
Boil and Bite
Thermoplastic boil and bite mouthguards are available at sporting goods stores. Before use, put it in hot water, so it becomes pliable. When placed in the mouth, a child may fit it to their teeth by pressing it with their fingers and tongue.
Though more expensive than the other types, custom mouthguards are more comfortable and protective. A children’s dentist makes the custom mouthguard by taking an impression of your child’s teeth and then fitting a pliable material over the mold. Formed to teeth, custom mouthguards are less likely to shift or fall out.
Choosing the Right Athletic Mouthguard for Your Child or Teenager
No matter which type of mouthguard your children use, it needs to fit properly. To do this, help your children determine if:
- It allows them to breathe and speak easily.
- It’s secure.
- It covers all teeth except for the back molars.
If your children wear helmets with face protection, use a mouthguard with a strap. If they have braces, ask your child’s dentist or orthodontist about compatible mouthguards. In all cases, check the rating for high-impact activities.
The right athletic mouthguard keeps a fun time from turning into a painful, expensive experience. By working with your children, their coaches, and dentists, you’ll find the perfect mouthguard for every age and sport.