Can Custom Mouthguards Reduce Risk Of Concussion?
As children grow and become more active in contact sports, it is important to keep them fully protected. This might include the proper fitting helmet, proper pads for their shoulders, and even shin guards. One very important item is often overlooked, the mouthguard. Many parents believe that the one you buy at the local sporting goods store is just as good as a custom made one. Recent research may prove otherwise.
Custom Mouthguards Protect Against Concussions?
Recent research published in an issue of General Dentistry may prove that custom mouthguards can reduce the risk of concussions while playing contact sports. The study followed over 400 high school football players from multiple teams. Approximately half the athletes were fitted with custom made mouthguards while the other half received the standard, over the counter, one size fits all, mouthguard. Helmet was not a factor as all participants wore similar style helmets. A player wearing an over the counter mouthguard had a doubled risk of concussion. About 8% of the players wearing over the counter mouthguards were diagnosed with concussions.
This is significant because while there are many factors that go into a player recieving a concussion, a custom made mouthguard can reduce that risk. The reduction in risk is believed to be from the custom mouthguard absorbing some of the shock, stabilizing the head and neck, and limiting movement of the jaw when applied with a direct force. One key factor the researchers found was in the thickness of the mouthguard. Most standard over the counter mouthguards are only about 1.65 millimeters in thickness while custom mouthguards are over 3.5 millimeters. That is a significant difference and may help explain the benefits of a custom mouthguard.
Types of Sports Mouthguards
Athletic mouthguards come in a few varieties. These include the following:
–Stock Athletic Mouthguards. This mouthguard is typically the least expensive and offers the least protection for your athlete. It is readily available in most sporting goods stores. Their prices range from a few dollars to about 25-30 dollars maximum. These sports mouthguards are ready to be used right out of the package. This type of sports mouthguard has some serious drawbacks. They tend to be quite bulky and lack any real retention. These tend to interfere with speech as well and breathing. These mouthguards often need to be modified by the user and thus reduce protection and retention.
-“Boil and Bite” Sports Mouthguards. This is the most common type of sports mouthguard in use today. These are available at most sporting goods and drug stores. This type of guard is fairly inexpensive. These are better fitting and more protective than the stock athletic mouthguards. These tend to fit better since they are form- shaped by each athlete’s mouth and teeth. Hot water is all that is needed to adjust the plastic comfortably around the teeth and gums. These sports mouthguards are made from a thermoplastic material that is immersed in boiling water and then formed in the mouth using biting, finger, and tongue pressure. Even this can be a challenging task for some so it may be best to contact your dentist when using even these to ensure they fit properly and cover the teeth sufficiently for protection. These sports mouthguards come in only a few stock sizes so they may not fit all participants the same. Many studies have shown that these boil and bite sports mouthguards do not adequately cover all the teeth in a high percentage of high school and collegiate athletes.
–Custom Fit Sports Mouthguards. These sports mouthguards are custom designed and fit just for each individual athlete. These are available thru your dentist. The entire process takes about one week to complete. The initial visit will include taking an impression of the upper teeth. This allows the dentist to create a model of your teeth which is then sent off to a dental laboratory. The laboratory technician will make a custom sports mouthguard adjusted to fit each athlete’s preferences and needs. The sports mouthguard should cover all teeth on the upper arch to be considered to be offering adequate protection. The major advantages to a custom nightguard include:
-Protection of teeth, jaw, and from concussions.
-Breathability. The custom appliances have been shown to allow for a better airway to help get the air you need.
-Thinner material to allow for better breathing while maintaining the protection.
-Longer lasting. While custom sports mouthguards will cost more it will last a significantly longer time than the other versions mentioned earlier.
-Personalized. You may choose your color so that you know it’s yours, or team colors/logos. You can also have your name imbedded in the sports mouthguard (a good example of this is the proform sports mouthguards) so that it can be readily identified. You do not want to mistakenly put someone elses sports mouthguard into your mouth!
-More hygienic. the higher quality material is less likely to embed bacteria within your sports mouthguard.
-Comfort. The custom fit allows for a much more comfortable feel.
Tips For Caring For Your Mouthguard
-After each use, brush and rinse your mouthguard with a toothbrush and cool water.
-Keep your mouthguard in a well-ventilated, plastic storage box when not in use. Your dentist will give you a colored case for your mouthguard.
-Stay away from excessive heat. Do not store your mouthguard in direct sunlight or in a hot car. The heat can melt the mouthguard, altering the way it fits in your mouth and resulting in less protection.
-When you see your dentist twice a year for your regular cleanings, bring your mouthguard with you. Your dentist can give your mouthguard a thorough examination and cleaning. This will ensure it is in proper form.
-Contact your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about your mouthguard.
Concussions and facial trauma are a big issue in professional sports as well as youth athletics. More research is needed, but the above study shows the value of having a custom mouthguard fabricated for your child by your dentist. The benefits of protection will far outweigh the cost from an injury (either medical or dental). Talk to your dentist about custom sports guards for your little athlete, you’ll be glad you did.