More American Children Should Wear Mouthguards

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Protective gear that guards against mouth injuries should be worn at practice and in 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.

Most American children don’t wear mouth guards while playing sports that pose a risk of injury to the mouth, which ignores recommendations 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.

“Studies have shown that young athletes that wear mouthguards suffer far fewer dental injuries than those who don’t” said Dr. William Kohn, DDS, vice president of dental science and policy for Delta Dental Plans Association.

Although mouth guards 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 mouth guard 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.2

Mouth injuries in football have dropped dramatically since mouth guards became mandatory. More Americans report that their child wears a mouth guard 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 mouth guard at both practice and games.

And only about four in 10 (44 percent) say that their child wears a mouth guard for hockey practice and games, which is also mandatory. Even more alarming, nearly two in 10 children (22 percent) only wear a mouth guard at games, not practice. And according to Safe Kids USA, most organized sports-related injuries occur during practice rather than games.3

“Parents need to encourage their young athletes to get in the habit of wearing mouth guards whenever they participate in sports, whether it’s for practice or a game,” said Kohn.

There are three types of mouth guards currently available:

  •     Stock mouth guards 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 mouth guards can be purchased at many sporting goods stores, and can be molded to the individual’s mouth, usually by boiling the mouth guard in hot water to soften the plastic.
  •     Custom-made mouth guards are considered the best option but are the most expensive. Since they’re made by your dentist from a mold of your teeth, they fit tightly and correctly.

Still, if cost is a consideration, any mouth guard is better than none at all.

The not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association (http://www.deltadental.com) based in Oak Brook, Ill., is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations specializing in providing dental benefits programs to more than 56 million Americans in more than 95,000 employee groups throughout the country.

1Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

2Academy of General Dentistry, “Mouthguards Fight ‘Weekend Warrior’ Syndrome” http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=S&iid=331&aid=1326, February 2007.

3Safe Kids USA, “Sports and Recreation Safety Fact Sheet” http://www.safekids.org/our-work/research/fact-sheets/sport-and-recreation-fact-sheet.html.

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