PARSIPPANY – Most American children don’t wear mouthguards while playing sports that pose a risk of injury to the mouth, contrary to recommendations made by dental professionals.
That’s one of the key findings from a survey of American children’s oral health, conducted on behalf of Delta Dental Plans Association, the nation’s leading dental benefits provider.
“Mouthguards do more than protect young athletes’ teeth. They can also help prevent concussions by acting as shock absorbers,” said Douglas B. Keck, D.M.D., M.S.H.Ed., Connecticut-based pediatric dentist and participating Delta Dental dentist. “Studies show that concussions can cause serious, long-term consequences for athletes, and the majority of at-risk athletes are children.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 300,000 people get sports-related concussions a year, with children and teens at the highest risk.
Although mouthguards are only mandatory for some youth sports, such as ice hockey, football and lacrosse, dental professionals recommend they be worn for all athletic activities where there is a strong potential for contact with other participants or hard surfaces.
But nearly seven in 10 Americans (68 percent) report that their child does not wear a mouthguard at soccer, basketball, baseball and softball practices or games. And studies show that today’s basketball players are 15 times more likely to sustain an orofacial injury than football players.
Mouth injuries in football have dropped dramatically since mouthguards became mandatory. More Americans report that their child wears a mouthguard for football than for any other sport. However, even in football – a sport requiring protective gear – only seven in 10 caregivers (70 percent) report that their child wears a mouthguard at both practice and games.
And only about four in 10 (44 percent) say that their child wears a mouthguard for hockey practice and games, which is also mandatory. Even more alarming, about two in 10 children (22 percent) only wear a mouthguard at games, not practice. And according to Safe Kids USA, most organized sports-related injuries occur during practice rather than games.
“Parents need to encourage their young athletes to get in the habit of wearing mouthguards whenever they participate in sports, whether it’s for practice or a game,” said Suzy Press, D.D.S., New Jersey-based pediatric dentist and participating Delta Dental dentist.
There are three types of mouthguards currently available:
- Stock mouthguards are relatively inexpensive and have a pre-formed shape. But since the fit can’t be adjusted, they’re less effective than a fitted option.
- Mouth-formed mouthguards can be purchased at many sporting goods stores, and can be molded to the individual’s mouth, usually by boiling the mouthguard in hot water to soften the plastic.
- Custom-made mouthguards are considered the best option but are the most expensive. Since they are made by your dentist from a mold of your teeth, they fit tightly and correctly.
Still, if cost is a consideration, any mouthguard is better than none at all.
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