The Best Defense: Protecting Young Athletes

For many families, this time of year is focused on sports. Summer athletic camps are increasingly popular, and parents often have to start preparing early for fall activities. You may already be thinking about replacing equipment, registrations, and scheduling – whether you like it or not!Inside Spread_Page1A

When you’re planning for student athletics, please keep mouth guards in mind. Athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer a dental injury when not wearing a mouth guard.

Unfortunately, athletic injuries aren’t just a remote possibility. More than 5 million teeth are knocked out each year through sports. Serious results – such as nerve damage, jaw fracture or tooth loss – cause the patient a great deal of pain. There is good news too: There are ways to help kids play safe and stay safe.

Studies show that custom-fitted mouth guards protect better against concussions/mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). They also offer the best protection against damage to teeth, jaws, lips, tongue, gums and soft tissues of the mouth.

This is why Future of Dentistry introduced a program to raise awareness about the importance of custom-fitted guards, and why we’re working to make them accessible to every student-athlete.

Our mission was inspired in part by Anthony Fabiano, a Wakefield native who’s now in the NFL, and his family. Please reach out if you’d like to learn more about our program, using the contact information at the top of this page.

Safety First

With custom-fitted guards, our team creates an impression of your teeth. It’s a quick, painless process for the patient.mouth guard youth sports

A guard is then designed for the unique contours and position of the patient’s teeth and gums. The result is a guard that’s more effective because it’s personalized. It’s also created from durable materials, and tends to be more comfortable for the wearer.

Many parents purchase generic-fit and “boil-and-bite” mouth guards from sporting goods stores. These products are certainly better than none at all, but they don’t protect the teeth, jaw and mouth as well as custom-fitted, professional guards.

Scientific research indicates that professionally-fitted guards offer the best defense against concussions. One recent study focused on high school football. It showed that players wearing over-the-counter mouth guards were more than twice as likely to suffer MTBI/concussions than those wearing custom-made, properly fitted guards.

From the NFL to Pop Warner, there’s an effort underway to educate people about the dangers of concussions. It’s become clear that concussions cause far more damage to the brain than we realized. These injuries can’t simply be shrugged off, and prevention is essential.

Mouth guards are also beneficial to adult athletes, whether you’re a “Weekend Warrior” in a competitive league or you occasionally play pickup games.

Fact and Fiction

Even when wearing a helmet, there are risks. Think of how jarring an impact can be when you fall, collide with a player, or are hit by a ball. You may suddenly bite down at a bad angle. When this happens, you could chip a tooth, suffer trauma to the jaw, or bite your tongue or inner cheeks. Customized mouth guards help minimize these internal risks. They pick up where the helmet leaves off.

We often associate mouth guards with football, hockey and lacrosse, but in fact, they benefit participants in almost any sport or activity.

It’s all too common for a baseball to go astray or a young skateboarder to “wipe out.” Usually these are minor incidents, but mouth guards reduce the risk of serious injury. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends mouth guards for a variety of sports, including soccer, horseback riding and gymnastics.

Basketball is another good example. You may not think mouth guards are needed for youth hoops, but they’re important in any sport where players jump or run. Just ask the NBA player who refused to wear one and lost four teeth starting in college.

It may seem odd for children to wear mouth guards for non-contact sports, but remember that most safety measures seemed strange when they were first introduced – from seat belts to bicycle helmets.

There’s also a misconception that only older players need guards. However, children are most susceptible to sports-related oral injury between ages 7 and 11, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

One day, mouth guards may be required for all youth sports. Until then, it’s up to all of us to safeguard our children’s health and wellbeing.

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