Eric G. Jackson, DDS, MAGD, FICOI, FICD, FADI
Your teeth are a lifelong investment. Multiple times per day you brush and floss to help them perform at the highest possible level. By practicing good dental hygiene you protect your oral investment over the long term. In the dental world however, much like in the investment world, long term success requires a different technique than the short term. So what measures can you take to address the short term? Trauma is undoubtedly the leading cause of catastrophic short term dental issues, so mitigating this risk is a good place to focus protection. No one can predict when they might suffer dental trauma as countless different situations can cause injury to teeth and gums. While trauma cases are not an everyday occurrence, they do unfortunately happen fairly regularly. In the last year alone, I’ve helped fix patients’ teeth that have tripped and fallen into doors, been hit in the face at a Cubs game, passed out and fractured teeth lifting weights at XSport, fallen off their scooter, and even chipped their teeth kissing their significant other! Obviously no one can prepare for these types of trauma since the activities they were performing were not terribly injury prone. But what would you do if you knew injury was a possibility when performing an activity. Wouldn’t you take steps to protect your dental investment and hopefully prevent additional dental issues and expenses?
In a recent survey commissioned by the American Academy of Orthodontics (AAO), 67% of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouthguard during organized sports The AAO Survey also found that 84% of children do not wear mouthguards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) says that athletes who do not wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to sustain damage to their teeth This raises a question: if mouthguards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral-facial injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?
Athletic mouthguards are not a new concept in either the sporting or the dental world. In 1964, Dr. John Stenger worked with the Notre Dame football team and delivered one of the earliest landmark mouthguard studies. Players were observed during both practices and games over an entire football season and recorded when each suffered an injury. The study clearly demonstrated that impact forces to the jaw/face were diminished and thereby resulted in fewer injuries. Players that wore mouthguards had fewer injuries and missed less playing time than those who did not wear them. In 1967, another landmark study was conducted by Dr. Judson C. Hickey and showed that mouthguards reduce pressure changes and bone deformation within the skull in a cadaver model. The study demonstrated a whopping 50% reduction in forces applied to the head when an individual is struck on the chin. These early studies showed that a mouthguard could decrease the likelihood of trauma to not only the teeth/mouth but possibly even the brain injuries/ concussions. More on that in a bit…
There are three primary types of mouthguards available to the public: