An estimated 30 million children in the United States participate in organized sport programs. All sporting activities have an associated risk of facial injuries due to falls, collisions and contact with hard surfaces and equipment.
To prevent permanent dental injuries, parents should be aware of the importance of choosing the right mouth guard for their child. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children and adults engaging in organized sports or recreational activities wear comfortable, well-fitted mouth guards that do not restrict breathing, resist tearing and are easy to clean.
Consequences of orofacial trauma for children and their families are substantial because of potential for pain, psychological effects, and economic implications. The cost of treating an extracted permanent tooth, including the follow-up care, is between $5,000 and $20,000.
Popular sports such as baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, wrestling, volleyball, and gymnastics lag far behind in injury protection. Basketball and baseball have the highest rate of dental injuries in children under 17.
Parents have several options when considering a mouth guard for their child. Custom-fabricated mouth guards are produced on a dental model of the patient’s mouth allowing for complete coverage of all teeth. The custom-fabricated type is superior in retention, protection, and comfort.
Mouth-formed, also known as boil-and-bite, mouth guards are made from a thermoplastic material adapted to the mouth by finger, tongue, and biting pressure after immersing the appliance in hot water. Available commercially at department and sporting-goods stores as well as online, these are the most commonly used among athletes but vary greatly in protection, retention, comfort, and cost.
Stock mouth guards are purchased over-the counter. They are designed for use without any modification and must be held in place by clenching the teeth together to provide a protective benefit.
Clenching a stock mouth guard in place can interfere with breathing and speaking and, for this reason, are considered by many to be less protective. Despite these shortcomings, the stock mouth guard could be the only option possible for patients with particular clinical presentations like orthodontic brackets.
Sports vary in the degree of risk and potential injury, therefore it’s important to consult with a dentist or dental specialist before selecting a mouth guard that meets the needs of the child’s specific activity.
Dr. Hamed Rez is a board-certified pediatric dentist and owner of Islands Pediatric Dentistry in Gilbert, AZ. Dr. Rez and his staff are committed to delivering the highest quality dental care using advanced dental equipment and building lifelong relationships with patients and their families. Services offered include checkups, teeth cleaning, crowns, nerve treatment, extractions and laser tongue tie and lip tie treatment. For more information visit islandspediatricdentistry.com.