Importance of Mouthguards
The importance of mouthguards for youngsters playing sports cannot be overstressed. Accidents can – and do – happen, and mouth protectors are vital to keeping your child safe from dental injuries while taking part in sporting and other recreational activities.
A shield to protect your youngster’s teeth and gums can prevent physical traumas commonly associated with a host of sports, and the American Dental Association (ADA)1 recommends the use of professionally-fitted mouthguards.
Research shows that taking part in sports boosts children’s confidence, improves health and enhances their social interaction. Participating in sports have also been linked to better school grades, less truancy, a decreased dropout rate, and lower crime levels.
Unfortunately, these advantages may come at a price. Injuries to the mouth and jaw are commonplace during sporting activities. However, the risks of trauma can be greatly reduced simply by wearing a mouthguard.
Dental trauma is the most widespread type of facial injury in sports. Sports-related accidents result in millions of people having teeth knocked out every year in the U.S. Mouth protectors lessen the risk of tooth loss, chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage, and injuries to the lips, jaw, gums, and tongue.
Besides affording protection for kids during sports, mouthguards can also provide an effective solution for youngsters who grind or clench their teeth to excess.
Importance of Mouthguards for Sports
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 report that over 50 percent of injuries during sport and recreational activities are sustained each year by children as young as five years old.
According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF), young athletes who do not wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to suffer dental injuries.
Research by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)3 suggests that eight in 10 children fail to use a mouthguard during organized sporting activities.
The American Dental Assistants' Association (ADAA)4 says five million people in the U.S. lose teeth in sports injuries every year.
Other studies indicate that mouth shields prevent more than 200,000 college and high school injuries each year.
The American Dental Association says people of all ages risk dental trauma in sporting activities at both recreational and competitive levels.
The ADA recommends the use of custom-made mouthguards for a wide range of recreational and sporting activities, including:
- Ice hockey, field hockey, and roller hockey.
- Water polo.
- Martial arts.
Advantages of Customized Athletic Mouthguards
Unlike over-the-counter mouthguards – which can wear out after a few months – a mouth protector made by dental professionals from an impression of your child’s mouth will typically last for a year or longer.
Other advantages of customized mouthguards include:
- No restriction of speech or breathing.
- Comfortable and firm fit.
- Damage resistant.
- Ease of cleaning.
A professionally-fitted mouthguard5 is particularly important if your child wears fixed braces. Removable oral appliances should be taken out during sport or any recreational pursuit that may put your youngster’s mouth in danger.
The importance of mouthguards is further underlined by the fact that they provide protection against impact to lessen the risk of head and neck injuries and concussion.
Finding the Right Sports Mouthguard for Your Child
There are several considerations when choosing a mouthguard for your child, including the potential level of impact in the sports they take part in. A pediatric dentist specializing in preventative care can explain the various options available and offer advice based on your child’s specific needs.
Several varieties of mouth protectors are available in sports outlets and other stores but none can offer a custom fit. A professionally-made, customized mouthguard will fit perfectly with no discomfort, so your youngster will want to wear it.
If your child doesn’t take to the idea of using a mouthguard, it might help to show them images of their sporting heroes wearing mouth shields.
Like braces, your youngster’s mouthguard needs to be kept clean and taken care of properly After each use, they should be:
- Cleaned with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Rinsed well with cool water.
Importance of Mouthguards to Combat Teeth Grinding
Besides helping to avoid sporting injuries, mouthguards also afford protection in instances of excessive grinding and/or clenching of the teeth. This condition is known as bruxism. It affects more than 30 million children and adults in the U.S. and can develop at any age.
Teeth grinding happens mostly while an individual is sleeping but bruxism can also occur when concentrating on tasks such as reading or writing.
Some studies have suggested a link between teeth grinding and stress or anxiety, sleep disorders, and orthodontic issues such as crooked teeth or an irregular bite function – in children’s oral development, their bite (occlusion) constantly changes as adult teeth replace baby teeth.
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
According to the WebMD6 health information platform, up to one-third of children grind their teeth – typically during sleep, when their baby teeth are appearing and when their permanent teeth emerge.
Many cases of bruxism in children remain undetected with no ill effects while others lead to an earaches or headaches. In other cases, nighttime teeth grinding can chip teeth, erode tooth enamel and increase sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks.
Other symptoms of bruxism include:
- Grinding sounds while sleeping.
- A sore face or jaw in the morning.
- Discomfort when chewing.
If you suspect your child suffers from severe bruxism, it’s advisable to get a comprehensive assessment of the problem by a pediatric dentist, who can then come up with a personalized treatment plan.
No intervention is generally needed with preschool children but some youngsters can benefit from wearing a mouthguard such as a nightguard or an occlusal bite plate while they sleep. Standard night mouthguards are not appropriate in instances of daytime teeth grinding, but special ultra-thin acrylic mouthguards are available that are virtually unnoticeable.
Most kids get over teeth grinding. Meanwhile, a combination of dental visits and parental observation can help keep the problem in check.