If we could go back in time, we all probably have a few things we wish we could change. Recently, Dr. Travis Stork, emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors, shared one of his do-over dreams with Dear Doctor magazine: “If I [could have] gone back and told myself as a teenager what to do, I would have worn a mouthguard, not only to protect my teeth but also to help potentially reduce risk of concussion.”
What prompted this wish? The fact that as a teenage basketball player, Stork received an elbow to the mouth that caused his two front teeth to be knocked out of place. The teeth were put back in position, but they soon became darker and began to hurt. Eventually, both were successfully restored with dental crowns. Still, it was a painful (and costly) injury — and one that could have been avoided.
You might not realize it, but when it comes to dental injuries, basketball ranks among the riskier sports. Yet it’s far from the only one. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), there are some two dozen others — including baseball, hockey, surfing and bicycling — that carry a heightened risk of dental injury. Whenever you’re playing those sports, the ADA recommends you wear a high-quality mouth guard.
Mouthguards have come a long way since they were introduced as protective equipment for boxers in the early 1900’s. Today, three different types are widely available: stock “off-the-shelf” types that come in just a few sizes; mouth-formed “boil-and-bite” types that you adapt to the general contours of your mouth; and custom-made high-quality mouthguards that are made just for you at the dental office.
Of all three types, the dentist-made mouthguards are consistently found to be the most comfortable and best-fitting, and the ones that offer your teeth the greatest protection. What’s more, recent studies suggest that custom-fabricated mouthguards can provide an additional defense against concussion — in fact, they are twice as effective as the other types. That’s why you’ll see more and more professional athletes (and plenty of amateurs as well) sporting custom-made mouthguards at games and practices.
“I would have saved myself a lot of dental heartache if I had worn a mouthguard,” noted Dr. Stork. So take his advice: Wear a mouthguard whenever you play sports — unless you’d like to meet him (or one of his medical colleagues) in a professional capacity…
Everyone knows that football players and boxers wear mouthguards to protect their teeth from injury — in fact, it's thought that this essential piece of protective gear was first developed, around a century ago, for the latter sport. But did you know that many other athletic activities carry a high risk of dental injury?
How much do you know about dental injuries in sports? Take this quiz and find out!
True or False: Of all sports, baseball and basketball are associated with the largest number of dental injuries.
True. While these games aren't categorized as “collision” sports, the damage caused by a flying elbow or a foul ball may be quite traumatic. Tooth damage or loss can create not only esthetic problems, but also functional problems, like difficulty with the bite. Missing teeth can also be expensive to fix — running up a lifetime tab of some $10,000 - 20,000 if they canâ??t be properly preserved or replanted.
True or False: In general, oral-facial injuries from sports decline from the teen years onward.
True. Sports-related dental injuries, like other trials of adolescence, seem to peak around the teenage years. It's thought that the increased skill level of participants in the older age groups reduces the overall incidence of injury. But there's a catch: when dental injuries do occur in mature athletes, they tend to be more serious. So, protecting your teeth while playing sports is important at any age.
True or False: Over 80% of all dental injuries involve the upper front teeth.
True. For one thing, the front teeth areâ?¦ in front, where they can easily come in contact with stray objects. An individual's particular anatomy also plays a role: The more the front teeth “stick out” (referred to as “overjet” in dental parlance), the more potential for injury. In any case, theyâ??re the most likely to be damaged, and most in need of protection.
True or False: Your chance of receiving a dental injury in non-contact sports is very slim.
False. Even “non-contact” athletes moving at high rates of speed can be subject to serious accidents. Activities like bicycling, motocross, skateboarding, skiing and snowboarding all carry a risk. The accidents that result can be some of the most complicated and severe.
True or False: An athlete who doesn't wear a mouthguard is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth.
True. This figure comes straight from the American Dental Association. So if you want to reduce your chance of a sports-related dental injury, you know what to do: Wear a mouthguard!
What's the best kind of mouthguard? Like any piece of sports equipment, it's the one that's custom-fitted just for you. We can fabricate a mouthguard, based on a precise model of your teeth, that's tough, durable and offers the best level of protection. And, as many studies have shown, that's something you just can't get from an off-the-shelf model.
If you have concerns about sports-related dental injuries and their prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”