Millions of teeth are knocked out each year from sports-related injuries because the unlucky participants weren't wearing a mouthguard.
Mouthguards have been shown to provide protection against traumatic injuries to the teeth and gums as well as help prevent injuries to the lips, tongue, cheeks, jaw, neck, and brain (due to concussion).
While mouthguards are worn by AFL players, cricketers and netballers, not all schools and sporting codes require the use of mouthguards for contact sports. And research indicates that only four to six per cent of athletes in non-mandated sports actually wear one.
Some of the reasons why athletes don’t wear mouthguards include speech and breathing difficulties, effect on the athlete’s image, fitting difficulties, bulkiness, cost, and the physical characteristics of the mouthguard; e.g. their rigidity or flexibility, surface and margins, odour or taste, and overall fit.
Types of Mouthguard
There are three main types of mouthguard:
• Stock (Type I) – the least expensive choice and offers the least protection since little can be done to adjust the fit. Athletes are more likely to experience difficulty with breathing, speaking and gagging.
• Boil-and-bite (Type II) – available at sports stores, less expensive than custom-made guards, however, the fit is not as good and it will not last as long.
• Custom-made (Type III) – superior to stock and boil-and-bite and offers the best protection, fit and comfort level because it is made from a cast to fit teeth.
Dentistry experts have researched the effectiveness of two different versions of custom-made mouthguards: a single-layered vacuum-formed mouth protector, and a double-layered heat- and pressure-laminated type. The double-layered mouthguard offered twice the protection and performed as well as or better than the single-layered type in most measures of wearability, comfort, fit, and patient preference.
The head researcher said “Dentists need to reach athletes early in their careers so that they will consider mouthguards to be a natural part of sports and recreational activities.”
The researchers recommend that dentists educate parents, teachers, coaches and those in charge of athletic programs about the best form of protection available – Type III multi-layered heat- and pressure-laminated EVA mouthguard. However, they also noted that this type of mouthguard might not be for everyone and that patients need to be informed of the risks, benefits, and alternatives available.
Many experts recommend that everyone, from children to adults, wear a mouthguard during any recreational activity that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth.
Kenyon BJ, Loos LG (2005) Comparing comfort and wearability between Type III single-layered and double-layered EVA mouthguards. General Dentistry 53: 261-264.
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