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Why Mouthguards are Important for Contact Sports

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Sports and injuries go hand in hand. If you participate in sports, especially competitively or in contact sports, you're bound to get injured at some point, even if you take precautions. The term contact sport refers to a sport that involves significant physical contact between opponents, which could potentially lead to damaged teeth.

Different contact sports that require gumshields to be worn, hockey, karate and boxing
Image of various types of contact sports

Sports involving fast, physical movements or objects that move (such as bats and balls) increase the risk of tooth damage. According to studies approximately 13% to 39% of dental injuries are related to sports. In the UK, approximately 25% of children will lose or damage a front tooth at some point. As contact sports become increasingly popular, traumatic dental injuries are on the rise.

Teeth can be damaged in several ways. Rugby, hockey, football, lacrosse, boxing, and MMA are among the sports with the highest percentage of dental injuries. In sports, dental traumas or dental injuries are more likely to occur. Listed below are some of the most common sports-related dental injuries:

Cracked tooth: There is a big difference between a cracked tooth and a chipped tooth. Chipped teeth have a corner broken off. Most of the time, this does not cause any pain. A cracked tooth, on the other hand, usually occurs near the roots. There is a possibility of discomfort and mild to severe pain because of it. To increase the chance of saving cracked teeth, immediate treatment is imperative.

Fractured roots: Fractured roots can be caused by a sudden impact on the face near the jaws. In contrast to a cracked tooth, a fractured tooth starts at the root level and progresses to the visible surface. Since the crown remains relatively healthy, it is not always obvious that it is damaged at first. A fractured root may cause more serious damage, pain, and infections, and may even lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Root canal therapy, or endodontics, is the best treatment for such dental injuries and prevents the chances of tooth loss.

Tooth Intrusion: Tooth intrusion is another common sports-related dental injury. A tooth can be pushed back into the jawbone during some sports injuries. While playing a sport, this can happen because of a hit or fall, or from a close encounter with another player. There are several consequences of tooth intrusion, including root shortening, destruction of the tooth pulp, and ankylosis (the fusion of the injured tooth's root with the alveolar bone). Tooth loss may occur if the problem is left untreated for too long.

Avulsed teeth: Avulsed teeth are another dental injury associated with sports. In this type of injury, a tooth is dislocated completely from its socket. Dental implants are the best treatment option for avulsed teeth. An implant can restore a patient's smile and natural-looking teeth.

All dentists are advocating that mouthguards be required for children playing contact sports at school or in clubs. There are some dental insurance plans that do not cover damage sustained during contact sports (including training sessions) if a mouthguard is not worn. It is recommended that orthodontic patients wear a mouth guard over their fixed braces by the British Orthodontic Society (BOS). Having a mouthguard in your sports kit is recommended in the UK. According to the Rugby Football Association's website: “In the best interests of players’ safety, we strongly recommend that all players wear a mouthguard during any contact rugby sessions. It has been shown that this significantly reduces the incidence of dental injuries”.

Prevention is always better than cure. It doesn't matter who you are, what game you're playing, or what level you're playing at, if there's an injury risk, you shouldn't take it. Always wear the right protection. Time, money, and even your career can be saved.

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