Preventing Dental Injuries
Mouthguards: Dr.Collins, a neurologist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, found that in 393 college football players tested, one in three had suffered a concussion. This group also scored lower when tested for the ability to think, learn words and handle complex tasks. One in five from Dr. Collin’s test group had two or more concussions and were significantly more likely to report continuing headaches, sleep and concentration problems. Alarmingly, another study found that nearly 63,000 high school athletes suffer mild concussions each year. In The Journal of the American Medical Association (Sept. ’99), researchers reported that two or more blows to the head, such as those received while participating in sports, can harm teenager’s ability to think for years and cause even worse long-term learning problems.
In many sports, the athlete is at an obvious risk for contact with sticks, pucks, balls and rackets, or the feet, heads, elbows and knees of other athletes. As a result, the potential for injuries to the head, jaw, neck, teeth, lips, gums or tongue is increased. While the debilitating effects of concussions are well documented, it’s important to point out that dental trauma can be devastating as well. In fact, dental injuries sustained while playing sports can require a lifetime treatments and rehabilitation costing several thousands of dollars per broken and /or missing tooth.
To the Rescue
Mouth protection, such as mouthguards, can help absorb the forces that cause oral-facial injuries and concussions, minimizing the incidence and severity of broken teeth and facial bones, trauma to the TMJ, or trauma to the spine and brain. A properly fitted mouthguard is essential for all athletes, but in the past, the importance of wearing mouthguards was aimed mostly at male athletes playing contact sports. However, more than ever, women are participating in the competitive contact sports where the level of strength and intensity among participants can result in the serious oral-facial injury.
The best mouthguards are those made from impressions of the mouth taken by the dentist. These custom-fitted mouthguards are also more comfortable than other type of mouthguards, so they are more likely to be worn when needed. If you play sports, for your own sake, be sure to ask your dentist about custom-fitted mouthguards. Custom-fitted mouthguards do not interfere with breathing or speech.