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Dental injuries and sports

Sport, leisure and recreation activities are the most common cause of dental injuries. Selected statistics include:

  • Accidents when cycling, skateboarding and scooter riding account for about 44 per cent of dental injuries

  • Team sports such as football, boxing, basketball, netball, cricket, hockey and soccer account for up to 14 per cent of dental injuries.

  • Any sport where contact with equipment, collision with other players or falling is possible (even accidentally) carries a risk of dental injury.

  • Mouthguards act as a shock absorber for teeth and jaw dental injuries are the most common type of mouth and facial injury in sport. The treatment of dental injuries can take many months and can be costly.

  • If the participants are involved in sports where they are at risk of a blow to the head or face from either opponents or equipment they should wear a properly fitted mouth guard. A mouth guard correctly fitted by a dental prosthetist will protect teeth, stop biting onto the lips and act as a cushioned layer between teeth to reduce the risk of concussion and jaw fracture.

  • Dental injuries can be painful, disfiguring and expensive to treat. Dental injuries may result in time off work or school to recover, and lengthy (and expensive) dental treatment. A mouthguard, custom-fitted by a dental prosthetist and worn every time you play or train, will protect against dental injuries.

Here is a picture of an injury that could be prevented by wearing a mouthguard,  The picture may disturb some people therefore you have to hover over it if you want to see it.

Types of mouthguards

The three basic types of mouthguard include:
  • Stock mouth guards -these are a bulky gutter of rigid plastic available from pharmacies and sports stores. They are very uncomfortable, interfere with speech and breathing and because they are not firmly secured offer a false sense of protection.
  • Boil and Bite mouth guards - Pharmacies and sports stores also sell "boil and bite "mouth guards. They are made from a thermoplastic material which is softened in hot water and then placed in the mouth to mould to the teeth as the guard is bitten. Like stock guards , they are cheap but never fit well and their shape easily deforms. They can be uncomfortable, impair breathing and speech, offer limited protection and can be an airway hazard. Can be fitted by the school dentist (South Aust. Only) for better protection of children's teeth.
  • Custom fitted mouth guards - These are made by a dental professional using an impression of the teeth from special shock absorbing plastic. A custom fitted mouth guard fits a person's mouth perfectly. The accurate fit and control of the thickness maximizes the shock absorbing effect. They fit comfortably and won't interfere with breathing.

Mouthguard features

Wearing an appropriately designed and made mouthguard while participating in sport will protect against dental injuries. Players of all ages involved in sports and activities where they are at risk of an injury to the face should protect their teeth with a properly fitted mouthguard. A protective mouthguard should:
  • Be comfortable yet tight-fitting
  • Allow normal breathing and swallowing
  • Allow normal speech
  • Not cause gagging
  • Be odourless and tasteless
  • Be thick enough (4mm) to provide protection against impact.

How to care for your mouthguard

Suggestions include:
  • Rinse the mouthguard in soap and warm (not hot) water after each use. Allow it to air-dry.
  • Disinfect the mouthguard from time to time with a mouthwash.
  • Keep the mouthguard in a well-ventilated plastic storage box when not in use. The box should have several holes in it.
  • Do not leave the mouthguard in direct sunlight, in a closed car or in the car's glove box. Heat can damage it.
  • Ensure your mouthguard is in good condition before each use.
  • Ask your dentist to inspect your mouthguard at every dental check-up.
  • Replace the mouthguard if it is damaged.
  • Replace a child's mouthguard every 12 to 18 months, even if it appears to be in good condition. Growth and new teeth can alter the fit.
  • Replace an adult's mouthguard after dental treatment or tooth loss. Otherwise it should last for several years.

General safety tips

Be guided by your dental practitioner and coach, but general suggestions include: Wear the mouthguard at all times, including games and training session

Make sure that the mouth guards:

  • fit the mouth accurately - if not return to your dental practitioner for after-fit
  • allow normal breathing and speech
  • be custom designed and fitted by a qualified professional
  • stay in place comfortably
  • be made of appropriate material which is non-toxic with measured thickness and coverage.
  • are compatible with the sport and the level at which it is being played.


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