I never understood how players do not get that the mouthguard is one of the most importance pieces of equipment they wear. I constantly see players forgetting to put their mouthguard in. They leave it dangling off their facemask, which is about as useful as not wearing your seatbelt.
I think the biggest problem is that players and parents just do not see the mouthguard as terribly important. So a player gets a four dollar mouthguard from a sports outlet store, never gets it properly fitted and does not like to wear it because it is uncomfortable. I do not want players to find excuses for not wearing a mouthguard so I’ve put together some information that I hope will open some eyes to the benefits of getting a well fitted mouthguard.
The following information is provided by the Florida Dental Association:
- In 1962, 50 percent of injuries among students participating in football programs in Florida were oral facial. At that time, mouthguard and facemask use became mandatory. It is estimated that this enforced protection prevents more than 200,000 injuries among football players each year.
- Athletes participating in sports not requiring this protection are 60 times more likely to suffer hard-tissue trauma to the oral-facial area. Other common injuries, including concussion, dental trauma and TMJ, also could be significantly reduced by properly fitting mouthguards.
- One third of male and one fourth of female students will suffer a dental injury before finishing high school. An Illinois hospital stated only one in every 10 such injuries resulted from collision sports (football, hockey, boxing) where the risk of injury is obvious and protective gear is required.
It is clear that mouthguards provide critical protection for the teeth and jaw but how do they protect against concussions or lesson the impact of hard hits? Sportsdentistry.com provides some insight into this question:
- Dr. Karen Johnston, a prominent Canadian concussion researcher, noted that: “The force required to concuss a fixed head is almost twice that required to concuss a mobile head”.
- By activating additional head and neck muscles at the time of impact this arc of rotation might be decreased, leading to less harmful movement of the brain inside the skull.
Research suggests that the mouthguard clenches the jaw towards the skull creating a more solid structure. You can try this yourself. Open your mouth wide and tap up on your jaw with your fist. Even a light tap will snap your jaw up and your head will move backwards. Now clench your teeth together as if you had a mouthpiece in and repeat the tap. Your head still moves backwards but there is considerably less movement. This is the “knockout punch” effect and why boxers aim for the jaw. A loose jaw will rock back into the bottom of the skull and can easily render a person unconscious.
Here is the catch. With all of the benefits of mouthguards they will not be effective if they are not quality made and not properly fitted. Players will stick half the mouthpiece out of their mouth during an entire game because it is uncomfortable and they cannot speak properly with it in. The reason it is uncomfortable is because it is not properly fitted. I played with a fitted mouthguard through junior and senior year. It was so well fitted to my teeth that I could speak easily and it never fell out. That is the kind of mouthpiece a player should be wearing to get all of the benefits that a good mouthpiece provides.
I found OPRO mouthguards my junior year and I highly recommend them for any JV or High School player who wants a quality mouthguard that will last for the entire season. If a fitted mouthguard is out of your price range then head to a sports store and get a mouthguard that you can fit yourself by heating it in hot water. You want it to stick to your teeth and it should feel comfortable.
I’m wrapping up this post with a special note to parents. Would you rather spend $20-$50 dollars on a quality, fitted mouthguard or would you like to spend $1,000 dollars on dental bills after Junior chips his four front teeth during a semifinal game?