According to a 2014 study published in General Dentistry—the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD)—custom mouthguards may reduce the risk of concussion in athletes. With school sports getting back into full swing, it is important for families to consider custom mouthguards for young athletes.
Researchers studied 412 high school football players from six teams to determine whether store-bought mouthguardsprotected their mouths as well as custom mouthguards. Three teams were randomly assigned the custom mouthguards, and three teams chose their own standard mouthguards. All of the players wore the same style of helmet.
Researchers found that those players wearing the over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries/concussions as players wearing properly fitted custom-made mouthguards. (While 8.3 percent of athletes in the OTC mouthguard group suffered concussion injuries, only 3.6 of the athletes with custom mouthguards suffered injuries.) According to previous studies, custom mouthguards may reduce concussion risks because they stabilize the head and neck and absorb shock when there is a direct hit to the jaw.
Lead author Jackson Winters, DDS is a pediatric dentist with 28 years of experience officiating high school and college football. Dr. Winters said, “Researchers and, most importantly, parents, are looking for ways to better protect children against concussions. Consumers may believe that today’s advanced helmet design provides sufficient protection, but our research indicates that, when compared to over-the-counter versions, a custom-made, properly fitted mouthguard also is essential to player safety.”
The thickness of the mouthguard may also be a variable. For the study, the custom mouthguards had an average thickness of 3.50 millimeters and the OTC mouthguards had an average thickness of only 1.65 millimeters.
Dr. Winters explains, “Although more research on this topic is needed, our study shows the value of a custom-made mouthguard, the benefits of protecting your child far outweigh the costs associated with a dental or medical injury, which is likelier to occur with a store-bought model.”
Regardless, the American Dental Association states that 1/3 of all mouth injuries may be sports-related. Mouthguards offer considerable protection against facial injuries, lost teeth, broken teeth, fractured crowns and root damage. Children should wear mouthguards when participating in contact sports such as football and boxing, as well as incidental contact sports such as volleyball and gymnastics.
In addition to custom mouthguards, which the dentist fits to each individual mouth, there are two types of OTC mouthguards: stock and boil and bite. Stock mouthguards typically come in sizes small, medium and large. These pre-formed mouthguards can be worn right away, but it can be challenging to get a proper fit, as they are not adapted to individual mouths. Boil and bite mouthguards are another option. They get their name from the requirement that you boil them in hot water before molding them to your teeth.
To keep your mouthguard in good condition:
1. Rinse it before and after using with cool, soapy water.
2. Don’t leave it in the sun.
3. Transport it in sturdy vented container.
If you have further questions about finding the right mouthguard for your child, or have suffered a sports-related dental injury, give us a call!
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