Adolescents in America are participating in sports at unprecedented levels today. That’s a wonderful thing! It is estimated that 20-25 million kids are now active in athletics. Playing sports is a great outlet and form of exercise, but unfortunately, some sports have physical contact that can possibly endanger your teeth and mouth. Millions of teeth are damaged each year during these sporting events. Not only are dentists seeing teeth broken and lost during contact sports, we are also seeing many dental injuries involving non-contact sports such as gymnastics and skating.
It is estimated that 10-20% of all injuries are to the dental/facial area. The damage can be expensive to repair. A lifetime cost of $10,000 – $15,000 for a single lost tooth is a common estimate. A tooth lost at a young age will need follow up work many times during the injury victim’s life.
There is, however, good news – dental injuries while playing sports can be prevented! Athletic mouth guards offer protection to your teeth during activities where you might come into contact with other people or objects. Athletes are 60 times more likely to sustain injuries when not wearing a mouth guard. Teeth can be fractured, knocked out, or simply moved within the socket causing permanent damage when guards are not worn. The American Dental Association estimates 200,000 high school and collegiate football injuries are prevented each year by the use of mouth guards. Football players have the highest percentage of participates wearing mouth guards. Hopefully, other sports will increase the use of mouth guard protection as well. If that were to happen we should see a dramatic decrease in sports-related dental injuries.
Athletic mouth guards offer protection to your teeth during activities where you might come into contact with other people or objects. While you can find generic, one-size-fits-all mouth guards at a number of stores, recent studies show those athletic guards are not giving your mouth its best possible protection. The mouth guard you purchase at a store will likely fit improperly and are vastly substandard to a professionally fabricated, custom mouth guard. A loose-fitting mouth guard can lead to tooth, mouth, and other serious injuries as it doesn’t properly protect your teeth and mouth when it comes into contact with another object.
There are three types of mouth guards
- STOCK GUARDS:The least expensive and ‘one size fits all’ guard. (Note: there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ with guards!) This guard must be held in place by biting down, so there is a high probability this guard will be dislodged just as sporting contact is made. Avoid this type of guard.
- 2.BOIL AND BITE GUARDS: This is the most common type of guard worn. Of athletes that wear guards, about 90% wear this type. These guards are readily available and relatively inexpensive but are only slightly better than stock guards. This guard is formed by boiling and biting to form the guard, the thickness of the material is extremely variable and often too thin in spots to provide proper protection. Also, this type of guard does not typically fit securely enough to stay firmly in place when a blow is delivered during contact sports.
- CUSTOM FITTED GUARDS: Custom guards provide the most protection. Impressions are made at a dental office and then the guard is custom-made at a dental lab, so it has uniform thickness and a secure and proper fit. Athletes report this guard is the most comfortable and lasts the longest. For fun, team logos and colors can be designed into the guards if desired. Most importantly, these guards provide the utmost in protection.
Once a tooth is damaged, it is damaged for life. Make sure your teeth, or your child’s teeth, are properly protected during sports. Our office offers custom athletic guards made from a mold of your mouth, so it fits properly and offers maximum protection. Don’t suffer serious, or permanent, damage to your teeth or mouth by playing contact sports without a custom athletic mouth guard.
If you have questions about any of the information presented, please feel free to ask any of our team members. All of our team members at Carolina Mountain Dental here to serve as a resource for your dental needs.
Learn more about mouth guards and the American Dental Association standards for mouth guards.
About Dr. Efird
Dr. Jeff Efird has practiced dentistry for over 20 years. His love and respect for the dental profession continues to grow as he sees patients positively affected by proper oral health and quality treatment under his care. Dr. Efird understands a relationship with a dentist is a lifelong endeavor and values the respect and trust his patients extend.
Dr. Efird began his training as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill. He attained a degree in chemistry before continuing his education and graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in 1987.
Dedicated to expanding his own knowledge and that of his practice, Dr. Efird has completed over 1000 hours of continuing education since graduating from dental school. Over the last decade he has focused most of his education of advanced restorative techniques and implant restorative solutions. Much of the training has been associated with the renowned Spear Education center in Scottsdale.
A member of the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, North Carolina Dental Society, and Buncombe County Dental Society, Dr. Efird is committed to providing outstanding quality care to patients in Western North Carolina. He lives in Asheville with his wife and son, and loves to fish and build handcrafted boats.