After starting the winter sports season with good intentions of always wearing a mouthguard during play, many budding young sportsmen and women get complacent by the time the middle of the year rolls around.

But the Australian Dental Association says wearing a good-quality mouthguard can provide protection not only for teeth but it may also help prevent concussion and parents really shouldn’t allow their children to take to the field or court without one.


The association’s Mark Foster said as well as increases in the overall popularity of contact sports, more young people than ever before were participating and these days they were starting sport at a younger age.


“Dental injuries are the most common type of oro-facial injury sustained during participation in sport, ” he said.


“One of the most cost-effective ways of protecting teeth is to wear a custom-fitted mouthguard.


“About 10 years ago there was a campaign where basically sporting clubs and coaches were encouraged to run with a policy of no guard, no play.


“And that went well but it seems the message has fallen by the wayside and there hasn’t been enough reinforcement or prompting and some people have forgotten their importance. It is easy to get complacent, particularly through the middle of the season.”


He warned that even when people did wear a guard, they may not be as protected as they thought.


Not all guards were created equal and some only provided limited protection at best.


He said stock mouthguards — anecdotally known as gutter guards — were available off the shelf from pharmacies and sports stores. The fit was generally poor and they were hard for the athlete to keep in place at all times.


“These generally offer no protection at all because they are only held in place by the athletes biting down on them, and if they fall or get a blow, the mouth pops open due to fright or force of impact and the guard falls out.”


He said boil and bite guards, also available from chemists, were slightly better and provided a good back up option should a custom mouthguard be lost or temporarily unavailable.


It was a good idea to carry one of these in sporting bags or for coaches to have one on hand in the event an athlete lost theirs on ground or came unprepared.


Nothing provided better protection than a custom-made mouthguard made specially to fit the athlete by either a dentist or a dental prosthetist, he said.


“We certainly recommend these for use during AFL, rugby league, rugby union, hockey and basketball, ” Dr Foster, who is also a dental advisor to Sports Medicine Australia, said.


“The guard will provide protection from a direct blow from another player’s limb or knee or elbow, or from a hockey stick or a goal post. It can protect teeth from being fractured or dislodged.


“The other thing it can help with is to provide protection when someone’s chin hits the ground or if a chin comes into contact with a fist or knee and the lower jaw gets pushed up into the top teeth.


“In that situation, if the two come together with force, a guard can protect the teeth and the jaw and there is some anecdotal evidence that it can also help prevent concussion.”


He said a good-quality mouthguard was a sound investment, considering the potential cost of a serious mouth injury.


“When you think about it, it is a much better idea to spend $100 to $200 on a proper mouthguard than to risk injury or trauma to the mouth which could cost thousands of dollars. The cost of one dental implant alone to replace a tooth that is knocked out can be up to $6000.”


© The West Australian

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