Most people, kids included, have experienced the "weekend warrior" syndrome, where you think your body is invincible to injury and that you do not need protective gear such as helmets for your head and pads for your knees, shins and elbows. In particular, teeth are often forgotten. Although the dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of athletic and recreational activities, consumers remain resistant to and ill-informed of the importance and advantages of wearing a mouthguard during their weekend activities.
"There are three reasons most people don't wear mouthguards: cost, the ‘headache factor‘ and image," says David Kumamoto, DDS, FAGD. "What people fail to realize is how many serious injuries such as concussions, jaw fractures and neck injuries are prevented by mouthguards."
It is estimated that mouthguards prevent more than 200,000 injuries each year. Although orofacial injuries are traditionally associated with contact sports such as football and hockey, findings show that soccer players are more likely than football players to sustain an orofacial injury and basketball players have a risk up to 15 times that of football players. These statistics do not include the number of people participating in leisure sports such as flag football and pick-up basketball games with friends. And, more people currently participate in organized soccer than those participating in competitive football, where mouthguards and face masks are mandatory.
"Pick-up games prove more of a risk than supervised sports because there are no officials to enforce game rules," says Dr. Kumamoto. "But even supervised sports have their share of serious injuries due to the lack of protective equipment. Sudden falls and accidental collisions during a game or athletic activity can cause dental injuries."
"Of the three types of mouthguards that are currently available, a custom-made mouthguard by your dentist offers the best protection, fit and comfort level because it is made from a cast to fit your teeth," says Dr. Kumamoto. "Mouth-formed guards are available at sporting goods stores and are less expensive than custom-made guards, however the fit is not as good and it will not last as long. A stock mouthguard, the least expensive choice, offers the least protection since little can be done to adjust the fit. However, even the least expensive mouthguard is better than none."
The Academy of General Dentistry recommends that players participating in basketball, softball, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating and martial arts, whether for an athletic competition or leisure activity, wear mouthguards while competing.