Posts for: November, 2014
Athletes in contact sports are at significant risk for traumatic injury to their teeth and mouth. It’s estimated 600,000 emergency room visits each year involve a sports-related dental injury.
Athletic mouthguards have become the premier safeguard against sports-related oral injuries. First worn by professional boxers in the 1920s, mouthguards are now required for use by various sports associations and leagues — from amateur youth to professional — for a number of sports. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), for example, requires their use during play for hockey, lacrosse, field hockey and football. The American Dental Association recommends mouthguards for 29 sports or exercise activities.
But do mouthguards actually prevent injury? To answer that question in a scientific manner, the Journal of Sports Medicine published an evidence-based report in 2007 on mouthguard effectiveness for preventing or reducing the severity of oral-facial injuries and concussions. While the report objectively analyzed many of the problems and issues associated with mouthguards (like materials, design and durability), it concluded the risk of an oral-facial injury was nearly two times greater without the wearing of a mouthguard.
That being said, most dentists and other professionals in sports safety would advise not all mouthguards are alike. The stock, “off the shelf” mouthguard found in many retail stores with limited size offerings is the least expensive, but also least protective, of mouthguard types. Mouth-formed or “boil-and-bite” protectors, which are softened in boiling water and then bit down on by the player to form the fit, are better than the stock version — however, they often don’t cover all of the player’s back teeth.
The best option is a custom-designed guard made by a dentist for the individual patient. Although relatively expensive (costs range in the hundreds, compared with $25 or less for a stock guard), they provide the highest recognized level of mouth protection.
The bottom line: a mouthguard is a must-wear part of any uniform for any sport that involves contact or high velocity objects of play. If you or a family member is a contact sport athlete, it’s essential you protect your teeth and mouth with a custom-fit, high quality mouthguard.
If you would like more information on mouthguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”
Concussion in athletes is a topic that’s getting lots of attention recently — not only in professional leagues, but also at the level of high school, collegiate and amateur sports. Helmets are being increasingly used in both contact and non-contact sports, like skiing and biking. But when you’re looking for quality gear that gives you additional protection against head and facial injuries, do you think of getting it at the dental office?
According to some new research, you should. A study published in the journal of the Academy of General Dentistry shows that a custom-made mouthguard, obtained at a dentist’s office, is more than twice as effective against mild traumatic brain injures (MTBI) and concussions than the over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards you can get at a sporting-goods store.
The randomized study followed six different high school football teams, with a total of 412 players. Half were assigned to wear custom-made mouthguards, while the other half used OTC types; all wore the same type of helmets. When the season ended, a total of 24 MBTI/concussion injuries were reported, for an overall rate of 5.8 percent.
But the study revealed that not all mouthguards are created equal: The incidence of concussion for players wearing OTC mouthguards was 8.3 percent, while the group with dentist-provided custom mouthguards had an incidence rate of just 3.6 percent — less than half the rate of the OTC group!
That’s a big difference — and there’s one more thing to consider: While they can give you additional protection against concussion, mouthguards are primarily designed to protect your teeth from serious injury. It is well established that athletes who wear mouthguards significantly reduce the risk of dental and facial injury. That’s why they are recommended by the American Dental Association, and why so many sports leagues and associations require their use at all levels of play.
A custom fabricated mouthguard, made from a model of your own teeth, fits you better than any generic type can; it’s also a better investment. The mouthguards we provide last much longer than the “boil-and-bite” or self-molded ones available in sporting-goods stores and big-box retailers. And if it prevents a single serious injury, a custom-made mouthguard can pay for itself many times over — not only in terms of medical bills, but also in time lost from school or work… and on the field, the trail or the slopes.
If you have questions about custom-made athletic mouthguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”
Tooth decay is a primary cause of tooth damage and loss, with annual treatment costs in the billions of dollars. It arises mainly from oral bacteria, which proliferates in the absence of effective oral hygiene. There are, however, other risk factors besides poor hygiene that could make you more susceptible to this disease.
Many people, for example, have genetically inherited deeper grooves (fissures) and depressions (pits) than the average tooth anatomy. These may be harder to reach with a toothbrush and can become havens for bacterial plaque. Others may have health conditions that indirectly affect the mouth: bulimia or anorexia, psychological conditions that involve self-induced vomiting, or GERD, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, in which stomach acid could regurgitate into the mouth. These conditions could result in a highly acidic mouth environment.
Some medical and — ironically — dental treatments could also increase your tooth decay risk. Some medications can reduce saliva flow, which inhibits acid neutralization and re-mineralization of enamel. Retainers, braces, bite guards or other dental appliances may also reduce the saliva wash over teeth, and can make brushing and flossing more difficult.
There are also risk factors that result from our lifestyle choices. Eating a lot of foods rich in sugars and other carbohydrates, for example, or acidic beverages like soda, energy or sports drinks contributes to the rise of bacteria in our mouths.
There are ways to reduce the effects of these risk factors. In addition to a daily habit of effective brushing and flossing, you should also include semi-annual cleanings and checkups at our office a part of your routine. If you have genetic, medical or dental issues that are out of your control, we can discuss solutions, such as alternatives to medications or different techniques for cleaning around dental appliances. For lifestyle-related factors, you should consider removing the habit or modifying it: for example, snacking at specific times or drinking acidic beverages only at mealtime.
While tooth decay is a serious, destructive disease, it is highly preventable. Addressing all your risk factors, not just hygiene, will reduce your chances of having it.
If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”