As the temperatures increase and outdoor sports ramp up, it is the responsibility of dentists to ask their patients if they play any sports and if so, if they wear a mouthguard, said Hans Stasiuk, D.M.D., Academy for Sports Dentistry president.
“Dentists should not only encourage their patients to wear mouthguards when playing most sports, but they should also be able to explain to them the difference between different mouthguards,” Dr. Stasiuk said. “There is a big difference in quality and protection between dentist-fitted, custom-fabricated, dual-laminate mouthguards and store-bought mouthguards.”
Dr. Stasiuk said that athletes are only given one brain and it’s important to do whatever it takes to protect it.
“Once the brain is injured, the damage is generally irreversible,” he said. “It is paramount to take proper protective measures to reduce the possibility of a concussion. Concussions can result in both short-term and long-term changes to the brain. Once someone sustains a concussion, they have a greater chance of getting a second concussion.”
Jack Winters, D.D.S., past president of the Academy for Sports Dentistry and retired NCAA Division I football referee, echoed Dr. Stasiuk’s recommendations.
“The acknowledgement that having a properly fitted and properly worn mouthguard is having an effect on the prevention of concussion injuries to the athletes participating in high-contact physical athletic activities and is gaining the public’s attention,” said Dr. Winters.
The Academy for Sports Dentistry advises that athlete shave their dentist make them a dual-pressure laminated custom mouthguard and then have it professionally fitted by the dentist.
Dentist-fitted mouthguards are superior to store-bought ones, Dr. Stasiuk said.
“Stock mouthguards generally come in three sizes — small, medium and large,” he said. “They don’t fit very well, and provide very little, if any, protection. Custom-fabricated mouthguards are designed on an exact model of the athlete’s teeth. The current gold standard in mouthguards is the custom-fabricated dual-laminate mouthguard made on a pressure-laminating machine. This mouthguard results in a far superior fit to all the other types of mouthguards. This mouthguard provides the best fit, the best comfort, and, ultimately, the best protection.”
Dr. Stasiuk said that the academy has seen dental and facial injuries in football decrease from 50% of all injuries to less than 2% of all injuries after mouthguards and facemasks were mandated.
“Potential orofacial damage, treatment time, treatment cost and the long-term implications should be presented to the patient-athletes,” Dr. Stasiuk recommended.
“Remind patients and athletes that their smile should last a lifetime. Wearing a custom mouthguard when participating in sports will help to reduce the possibility of dental trauma and protect that winning smile.”
Dr. Winters emphasized that all mouthguards are not equal.
“Concussion issues are a major concern for all athletes at all levels of competition,” he said. “The dental profession is in the best possible position to make a difference.”
MouthHealthy.org contains educational resources on mouthguards, including: