USA TODAY High School Sports and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association have partnered on a monthly column to address injuries, prevention and related issues to help schools, coaches and student-athletes. Here is the latest column from Scott Sailor, the president of NATA.
When high school athletes think about sports safety, many are probably more concerned about a concussion or ACL tear than a dental injury. However, much like other types of injuries, those that are dental-related can affect an athlete physically and emotionally, and can be costly financially.
A properly fitted mouthguard is a relatively inexpensive and effective way to help prevent dental and oral injuries. While the National Federation of State High School Associations mandates the use of mouthguards in ﬁeld hockey, football, ice hockey and lacrosse as well as wrestling, if the athlete wears braces or an orthodontic device, athletes in other sports have reason to consider mouthguards as well.
Research cited in the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Preventing and Managing
Sport-Related Dental and Oral Injuries shows that athletes who don’t wear mouthguards are twice as likely to sustain a dental or oral injury than those who do wear them.
In sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer, which don’t mandate mouthguards, dental and oral injuries account for approximately 3 percent to 38 percent of all sport-related injuries, studies show.
Dental injuries can affect different parts of the tooth, from a fracture to a tooth being knocked out. If you sustain an injury during athletic participation, your athletic trainer or other health care professional will need to properly assess the injury, provide emergency care and make return-to-play decisions. Depending on the injury type and severity, he or she may also refer you to a specialist who has additional training in sports dentistry.
- Wear a properly fitted mouthguard when participating in any sport that has a risk of dental injury.
- Wash your mouthguard with a mild antimicrobial soap and rinse it thoroughly in lukewarm water before and after use.
- Store your mouthguard in a clean, rigid, ventilated plastic container.
Don’t expose your mouthguard to prolonged direct sunlight or sources of heat.
Examine your mouthguard daily for fit and damage. Be sure to get it replaced if it is loose or damaged.
What a mouthguard won’t do:
- Mouthguards won’t prevent mild traumatic brain injuries or sport-related concussions and you shouldn’t wear one for that purpose.
- A mouthguard won’t improve your performance.
- A mouthguard won’t negatively affect your breathing or strength.
Remember, you only have one set of adult teeth, and wearing a mouthguard can help prevent an injury. If you have questions about your mouthguard or if you want to know if you need one, check with your athletic trainer, who plays an important role in your overall health care. Visit atyourownrisk.org for additional sports safety tips for athletes and parents.