Mouthguards: What you need to know to help protect young athletes
According to the American Dental Association, athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to their teeth if they’re not wearing a mouthguard.
And those injuries can not only sideline young athletes but also be costly for parents, too.
We checked in with Dr. Dan Brett, a licensed dentist with more than 30 years’ experience. An expert in mouthguard design and technology, he has designed mouthguards for several elite athletes, including Kevin Love, Harrison Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins.
Check out what he has to say on mouthguards to help keep your young athletes safe and in the game:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s a common mistake parents make when buying a mouthguard for their child?
BRETT: The belief that all mouthguards are the same so they might as well get the best value. As often is the case, you get what you pay for. In most cases, the higher priced mouthguards are that way because they are utilizing better design technology and materials. I think parents need to realize that the cost of repairing even a slightly chipped tooth can cost close to 10 times what a higher end mouthguard will.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What do parents need to be looking for when purchasing a mouthguard for their young athlete?
BRETT: One, that the mouthguard needs to be fitted to their young athlete’s teeth. The main requirement of a mouthguard is fit, so choosing a mouthguard like Shock Doctor and following the fitting instructions ensures that it is in the proper position at impact. The best way to ensure that is that it is fitted specifically to that young athlete. Secondly, the athlete has to want to wear it, they need to think it looks “cool.” A lot of young athletes are not as concerned as their parents with the protection aspect of the mouthguard but rather the appearance of it.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: You design mouthguards for elite athletes – how do their needs differ from a child’s?
BRETT: Surprisingly they don’t. At our laboratories, we fabricate custom mouthguards for our professional athletes the same way we would for our young athletes. Elite athletes require that mouthguards fit well, are comfortable, and protective to wear without affecting speech and breathing. We believe that the same requirements should be the standard for athletes on every age and level of competition.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: Some kids have gag reflexes and have a lot of difficulty adjusting to wearing a mouthguard so what is the best approach for helping them?
BRETT: The gag reflex will increase if the mouthguard moves around in the athlete’s mouth, so again a good fit is necessary. Also, a mouthguard that does not extend too far onto the palate (roof of the mouth) or extend past the last tooth will cut down on the gag reflex.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: Besides mandated sports (football, ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, wrestling) what sports should children be wearing mouthguards in?
BRETT: Orofacial trauma is greatest in young athletes in the 8- to 14-year-old range. The sports that have the greatest incidence of orofacial injuries are those of basketball and soccer. Studies show a reported injury rate of 31% in high school basketball players and injury rates of approximately 26% in soccer. Since injury rates are so high in basketball in particular, I always recommend the Shock Doctor Custom or the Shock Doctor SuperFit Basketball Mouthguard, which has key features like better breathability and speakability, and was also designed to handle the hard court, hard elbows and hard shots of basketball.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: Anything else that is important for parents to know?
BRETT: I think one area that often gets overlooked by parents is the necessity of having a quality mouthguard after orthodontic treatment. I have seen too many times young athletes that have gone through the time and expense of orthodontic treatment to get that “perfect” smile only to have them ruined by traumatic injuries that could have been prevented by a quality mouthguard.
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