Mouthguards first came into general use in the sport of boxing in the 1920s, but their application in other sports did not follow until the 1960s.
When it comes to sports-related dental injuries, it’s all about prevention — and that revolves largely around protective equipment. To prevent dental injuries, there are two essential pieces of equipment — headgear and mouthguards, both of which help distribute the forces of impact, thereby reducing the risk of severe injury. Mouthguards are by far the best equipment for protecting both the teeth and mouth in contact sports — when they are used. For many sports, like football, it’s an obvious need.
Its important to note that injuries happen to athletes of all ages and level of skill, from the 7 year-old soccer player to the professional bicyclist to 60 year-old community league baseball player.
As a rule of thumb, mouthguards should be used when the sport involves a ball, stick, puck, physical contact with another player or high speeds. And, they should be used not only during games or events, but also during practice.
All mouthguards are not alike. Each offer a different level of protection. The preferred type is the custom-fit mouthguard. This requires a visit to a dentist who makes precise models of the teeth upon which the guard is made, either by the dentist or a dental laboratory. Not only does this produce the best fit and highest level of protection for the athlete, but custom-fit mouthguards also accommodate other comfort features, including a more natural airflow for easier breathing.
In the event of an injury, its important to know the appropriate treatment course to take:
Immediate — within 5 minutes of the injury: If a permanent tooth is totally knocked out it requires immediate treatment by cleaning and re-implanting the tooth back into its original position to have any hope of saving the tooth long-term. Knocked out baby (primary) teeth are not re-implanted for fear of damage to underlying permanent teeth.
Urgent — within 6 hours of the injury: If a permanent or primary tooth is still in the mouth but has been moved from its original position, it is considered an acute injury and should be treated within 6 hours.
Less urgent — within 12 hours of the injury: If a permanent or primary tooth is broken or chipped but has not shifted from its original position, the injury is classified as less urgent. You still need to see a dentist for an exam; however, you generally can wait up to 12 hours before possible irreversible damage occurs.
The ADA recommends mouthguards for the following sports:
• Water Polo
• Discus/Shot put
• Martial Arts
• Weight Lifting
• Ice Hockey