Dental Injuries among Athletes: How Common Are They, and Can Mouth Guards Help?

Can Mouth Guards Help Decrease Sports-Related Dental Injuries?

Sports can be life-changing, but sometimes it may not be in a positive way. Take, for example, dental injuries that can lead to severe or even permanent damage to oral health.

To help reduce the risks, experts highly recommend wearing sports mouthguards, but are they useful?

How Common Are Dental Injuries?

According to CDE World, athletes usually have a 1% chance of suffering from a dental injury in one athletic season. Annually, players lose a total of over 5 million teeth.

The lifetime risk, especially among young players, is as high as 45%. In a 2015 PubMed research that spanned 52 years, 80% of sports participants could have such an injury.

Meanwhile, the cost of avulsion (tooth loss) could reach $500 million each year. Treatment costs for every missing tooth could be as much as $20,000.

A 2017 BMC Oral Health pointed out some common types of sports-related dental injuries. Besides avulsion, the player might also experience:

The same study also provided more data on the demographics of the at-risk participants. Dental injuries are twice as often in males as in females. Contact sports, such as boxing and football, could increase the chances of such injuries.

Why These Dental Injuries Matter

Maintaining proper oral health is essential for survival. Occlusion or teeth misalignment, as well as loss, can lead to problems in chewing. It may then affect the person’s digestive health later on. It may also affect speech negatively.

These dental injuries can also impact the gums. Malocclusions of the teeth may increase the risk of gum inflammation or periodontitis. When left untreated, it hastens the formation of dental cavities.

In a study on 2012 London Olympics athletes, those with these dental conditions reported lower levels of good oral health. This perception could then impact self-perception. About 18% said it negatively affected their performance and training. Nearly 45% shared it bothered them, while more than 25% claimed it reduced their quality of life.

Can Mouth Guards Reduce Risks of Dental Injuries?

Minimizing dental injuries, therefore, is essential to keep players healthy and in their best shape to complete. One of the practical solutions is wearing sports mouthguards.

A report by the Australian Dental Journal revealed that these oral appliances decreased complications associated with dental injuries among rugby players. Other studies also showed similar results in other sports, such as football.

They are so essential many guidelines encourage players to wear them. The question is, why are dental injuries still prevalent?

Two reasons: relaxed rules and lack of compliance. Although many guidelines advocate mouthguards, they are still optional to wear. To illustrate the negative effect of noncompliance, one can refer to a study among young varsity basketball players in Florida.

Over 30% of them sustained dental injuries during a season. Among more than 1,000 players, only a few wore mouthguards. In the end, the risk of dental injuries in the sport increased seven times when they didn’t have an oral appliance.

Other factors can also increase the risk of such injuries. These include allowing children to play unsupervised. A study among young Japanese players, meanwhile, cited less-known factors associated with dental injuries:

Sports-related injuries are typical. What athletes and parents can do is cushion their impact on children’s health. When it comes to preventing dental injuries, wearing mouthguards is one of the best steps.

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