Sports Injuries: An Argument for Customized Dental Appliances

mm Written by Andrew Sedler

Now that we can get back to doing more group activities, sports have become an important part of daily life. But, unfortunately, people participating in sports such as basketball, football, baseball, soccer, bicycling, and many others have a high incidence of oral trauma.

Oral trauma is especially true for those who participate in contact sports where players interact physically. In general, sports injuries that occur to the dentition often become long-term problems that can be costly and never completely heal. Thus, this area is an excellent opportunity for clinicians to offer expanded services in terms of helping athletes, both young and old, protect themselves from sports injuries.

According to the American Dental Association, studies consistently show reduced dental injuries when a mouth guard is used during sports.

For example, in a game like soccer, over half the injuries that occur do so in the mouth. A mouth guard could have prevented the majority of these sports injuries. However, when players in contact sports do not use a mouth guard, injury risk increases to 1.6 - 1.9 times that of those who use this protective device. Also, mouth guard users are approximately 93% less likely to have a dentofacial injury than non-users. The most frequent injuries include tooth fractures and avulsions.

Sports Injuries - Tooth Fractures and Avulsions

The Importance of Sport Mouth Guards

Mouth guards are designed to reduce the force that can occur to the jaw. They can reduce the frequency and severity of trauma to not only the teeth but the jaw and soft tissues as well.

Mouth guards

Mouth guards create a space between the skull and condyle, reducing the impact on the brain, helping to protect athletes from injury. Dental professionals play a significant role in treating sports-related injuries when they occur and providing proper devices to prevent these sports injuries, which should be the primary goal.

Mouth guards protect the following:

  • Mouth guards protect the lips, cheeks, and tongue by acting as a buffer between these soft tissues and the teeth.
  • The teeth are protected from dislocating or fracturing by providing a barrier between the teeth and impact force.
  • Forces are distributed throughout the mouth rather than on localized areas.
  • Seismic contact is diminished, protecting opposing teeth from hitting together.

Many studies link the use of mouth guards to reduced oral-facial injury in athletes. Therefore, the role of the dentist and dental lab to fabricate proper appliances is crucial in protecting patients from painful, expensive, and sometimes lifelong damage.

Types of Sport Mouth Guards

There are mainly three types of mouth guards. These protective devices vary in price, comfort, effectiveness, and safety. However, the right dental appliance can make all of the difference in keeping athletes safe during sports.

The three types of appliances are as follows:

1. Stock Appliances

Stock mouth guards are usually found at sporting good stores and are the least expensive type. While they do come in different sizes, the primary kind of retention is keeping the mouth closed. They are often bulky and may make breathing difficult. It is not formed to the athlete’s mouth, and not only is it the least expensive, but it is also the least effective. These are not recommended as they provide little to no protection.

2. Boil and Bite Appliances

Mouth-formed appliances are generally designed to be used at home and are also found in retail stores, predominantly sporting good stores. As the name suggests, these soften when placed in hot water and then are placed in the mouth to be molded to fit. This is usually accomplished through the biting pressure as well as fingers.

These mouth guards are made from thermoplastic and can distort at body temperature. In addition, there is often no dental supervision in the use of these, and they can be ill-fitting. This can lead to poor retention and, ultimately, inadequate protection. While they offer limited protection, they are recommended if getting a custom appliance is not an option.

3. Custom Appliances

By far, the best fitting and most effective mouthguards are those that are fabricated in a dental lab or office. These are fabricated with the use of the patient’s impressions and offer the best fit. In addition, the most effective mouth guards are those that are laminated with a soft inner layer and a hard outer layer.

These are noted to be more effective at absorbing impact. However, these mouth guards require a full dental exam to take into consideration any previous dental injuries. It is also critical to consider the type of sport being played so that the guard is designed appropriately for that specific sport.

Custom appliances can be fabricated using thermal, pressure, vacuum, polymerization, or light-curing systems. The type used is dependent on the material choices, kind of sport, and any other individual characteristics regarding the athlete’s jaw or mouth that need to be considered.

For the best results, a mouth guard should:

  • Be made of resilient material and offer long-lasting protection
  • Be adapted to the athlete's mouth to ensure accurate fit and adaptation
  • Stay in place and provide comfort
  • Be odorless and tasteless
  • Not interfere with breathing or speech
  • Be easy to clean
  • Reduce impact from transmitted forces.

By far, the most useful appliances are those that are fabricated with the clinician’s supervision. These will offer the most protection due to the accuracy of fit.

There is no question that participating in sports and other recreational activities brings with it the possibility of an increased risk of dental injury. This increased risk isn’t only valid of the high contact sports such as football, but even the seemingly less dangerous sports such as soccer need to consider the possibility of injury.

The consequences of trauma to the oral cavity is great as it can lead to lifelong and expensive long-term issues. With young people being the most at-risk group due to their involvement in recreational sports, it is of great importance for dental professionals to inquire about sports activities and educate parents on the importance of utilizing these appliances.

The most effective appliance is one that fits correctly and one with which a patient will quickly comply. At Burbank Dental Lab, we provide custom sports appliances that are designed to meet the needs of the specific sport and activity level of your patients.

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Sports Injuries: An Argument for Customized Dental Appliances

Sports Injuries:

An Argument for Customized Dental Appliances

Written by Andrew Sedler, COO

Written by Andrew Sedler, COO

Written by Andrew Sedler, COO