Zone Defense Against Traumatic Oralfacial Sports Injuries

Zone Defense Against Traumatic Oralfacial Sports Injuries

Sports are back! It feels like an eternity since we were able to engage in the magic of athletic competitions. Finally, we can enjoy the glory of high volume, high competition, and high contact sporting events.

However, we cannot talk about sports without speaking about devastating injuries that come along with many of these friendly competitions. I am sure we can all think of a sporting mishap that left us cringing, whether that is two baseball players jumping for the same fly ball, an elbow to the face when going up for a rebound, a high soccer kick, or even a stick to the jaw when fighting for the hockey puck.  

Unfortunately, contact sports can cause damage to the head and oral cavity and be very detrimental. The good news is many of these injuries can be prevented with the use of a dental mouth guard.

Dental mouth guards are typically worn on the upper teeth. They are used as cushions against traumatic force to the oral cavity. According to the American Dental Association, dental mouth guards can drastically decrease the risk of injury to your teeth, tongue, lips, jaw and face. Dental guards are especially important in athletes who are undergoing orthodontic treatment.

Unforeseen collision to the oral cavity can cause damage to brackets or other orthodontic appliances. Mouthguards create a barrier limiting injury to the soft tissue surrounding brackets. In addition, custom mouthguards help absorb shock placed on the head and jaw during a collisoin.2 Many studies have postulated that the absorption of these forces limits the amount of pressure placed on the brain.

The addition of a mouth guard, along with other safety equipment, can decrease the impacted forces placed in the crianalcavity while participating in contact sporting events. Therefore, decreasing an athlete's risk of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussions.

There are several types of dental mouth guards ranging from customized to stock guards. Custom mouthguards made by your dentist are ideal as they provide optimal support and protection. There are also over the counter boil and bite guards which can be found at many sporting goods stores.

Typically, those guards are placed in boiling water until softened, then positioned in the mouth to form the shape of the upper arch. When looking for a boil and bite guard, ensure that the brand is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The last type of mouthguard is a stock guard. These guards are relativity inexpensive; however, they are typically ill-fitting and bulky. They provide very minimal support and many people find them difficult to keep in place.

If trauma to the mouth occurs, contact your dentist as soon as possible. It is important to seek treatment in a timely manner to prevent irreversible damage. If a tooth is knocked out or avulsion occurs, do not touch the root of the tooth. Place the tooth in a container filled with milk or saliva. Do not place the tooth in water. There is a possibility that the tooth can be re-implanted into the existing space.

In the words of the great Mark Spitz, “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” Don’t forget to add the dental mouth guard to your list of athletic equipment this year!