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Is Your Young Athlete’s Life Worth $200?

Researchers suggest that when it comes to buying a mouthguard, parents who want to reduce their child’s risk of a sports-related concussion should visit a dentist instead of a sporting goods store.

As parents and caregivers, we learn many lessons. While some of these are realized more quickly than others, one that becomes blatantly obvious is that we are unable to protect our kids from every potential danger and risk. When they’re little, injuries consist mostly of scraped knees or a bonked noggin, and we can’t leave out the occasional karate chop from a sibling. Nothing a kiss on the head and an ice pack or band-aid and a little time can’t fix. However, once they’re school-aged and involved in contact sports the risks increase substantially, with the potential for broken bones and concussions. Concussion, as MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury)’s is commonly termed, is a very real concern and a possible consequence in every sport that has head impact or collision. With more than 300,000 sports-related concussions annually in the United States, it’s estimated that an athlete has a 19% chance of sustaining a concussion, for every year of play. An injury that can have a vast array of implications ranging from mild to severe health issues, in both the short and long term or even death.

Protecting your child’s dental health on and off the field or court!

Now, we’re all fully aware that sending our little ones out into the world in a bubble is not a realistic option, despite our desire to. However, the next best thing is to make sure we provide them with the most effective equipment that we have available to us. Mouth gear has historically been a sports safety staple, providing dental protection on and off the field, court, etc. and even well-known nighttime teeth clenching and grinding prevention option, Or a sleep apnea relief option referred to as a nightguard. A less common use that you can add to the list of roles that mouthguards can take is that of a concussion preventative.

With the new school year beginning and youth-sports sign-up upon us, it’s imperative that we equip our young athletes with the proper gear to reduce their risk of injury as much as possible. While the majority of contact sports don’t require head protection such as wearing a helmet, a mouth guard is a virtually undetectable way to greatly decrease the potential for concussions, severe brain trauma, and potential death. It does so by absorbing shock, stabilizing the head and neck, and limiting movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw.

All mouth-guards are NOT created equal

With several options available, it’s imperative for parents and coaches alike, to be educated on the types of mouth protectors on the market today. While any mouth-guard is certainly better than none, research reports from a study in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), shows that athletes using an OTC mouth-guard were still more than TWICE as likely to suffer a concussion than their peers who wore a custom-made, properly fitted mouth guard. According to one study, 8.3 percent of athletes using an OTC device suffered MTBI/concussion injuries versus only 3.6 percent using a custom-made mouthguard. You get what you pay for, so the difference in the level of protection and quality seems well worth the slightly larger upfront cost. Especially if you take into account the amount you would spend replacing store-bought models or on the dental and medical costs from the injury, you’ll potentially avoid.

What is the difference between an OTC and custom-made mouth guard?

A major contributing factor to the effectiveness of a mouthguard is the thickness of it. On average, the generic store-bought version is only 1.65 millimeters versus the custom-made option which averages 3.50 millimeters.

Universal-fit mouthguards- The least expensive option and research also shows they’re the least effective. These are the most easily obtained, but only available in a limited range of sizes and requires the athlete to bite down in order to hold it in place.

Boil and bite mouthguards- Just like it sounds, after a few minutes in hot water, they are inserted into the mouth and bitten until the tooth indentation is adequate. While these provide a more custom fit than the universal model, they don’t provide the additional thickness that is required to increase their level of protection.

Custom-made mouthguards- Fabricated in a dental office using individualized impressions and allowing for optional colors and customization, in addition to providing the best fit and efficacy. While these are the most expensive option, usually in the $200 range, they are the most durable and meant to last. You can even go back for additional fittings. These are also the best option for athletes with orthodontics. The custom fit gives the braces a better grip and added comfort.

When it comes to our children we spare no expense in keeping them safe, especially when it is something preventable. Mouthguards

Do you know the signs and symptoms of a concussion? Check out the CDC’s “HEADS UP to Brain Injury” campaign here, which will provide you with a checklist and even free online training courses.

Just like the customized mouth protection we provide at Campbell Family Dentistry and Orthodontics, which allows you to show your team spirit by incorporating their colors, you can find customizable concussion resource materials for your team to utilize, here.

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