The Sports Mouth Guard
More than 5 million teeth are knocked out in sporting activities each year.
However, orofacial injuries and fracture traumas are not the only risks. The University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery states that in the United States alone 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually.
Athletes participating in certain high-impact competitive sports such as hockey and football are the most susceptible to concussions.
While these numbers are staggering, the American Dental Association estimates that more than 200,000 oral injuries are prevented every year thanks to the use of sports mouthguards.
Statistics show that a protective, customized mouthpiece decreases the risk of injury by 99%. This is why dentists, sports physicians, athletic trainers and the ADA recommend mouthguards for those who participate in high-impact, competitive sports.
Mouthguards function as shock absorbers by cushioning the jawbones and preventing them from being forced into the base of the skull or brain cavity upon impact. By absorbing and dispersing the force of a blow, the mouthguard protects teeth and diminishes the risk of injuries to the lips, tongue and soft tissues of the mouth. Because they keep the upper and lower jaws separated, mouthguards also protect against neck injuries.
Most sporting goods stores stock a variety of mouthguards which cannot be altered or customized to the athlete’s mouth. Because of this they don’t have the precise fit, comfort, retention or stability needed to provide the maximum amount of protection against injury. These ‘stock’ types of mouthguards are held in place by biting down on them which can interfere with speech and breathing and the degree of bite separation may not be adequate to provide protection against neck injury. They are also more easily dislodged at impact – the time when protection is most critical.
Custom-made mouthguards are made by a dentist who creates a custom model of the athlete’s mouth. The resulting mouthguards are form-fitted and designed to stay in place with no effort. The athlete is able to speak and breathe easily while wearing the guard.
There are two categories of custom mouthguards: the Vacuum Mouthguard and the Pressure Laminated Mouthguard.
The Vacuum Mouthguard is made from a stone cast of the mouth using an impression (mold of single layer of copolymer material ) fabricated by your dentist. A thermoplastic material is adapted over the cast with a special vacuum machine. The vacuum mouthguard is then trimmed and polished to allow for proper tooth and gum adaptation.
The Pressure Laminated Mouthguard is also made from a stone cast but combines heat and high pressure to laminate multiple layers of copolymer material onto the guard. This is considered to be the ‘state-of-the-art’ mouthguard.
Your dentist will determine which technique is optimal for constructing your custom-fitted mouthguard.
Additional information about using customized mouthguards to prevent sports injuries can be found here: http://www.romanodental.com/blog/2011/10/sports-mouthguards/.