Custom Mouthguards Might Reduce Athletes’ Risk of Concussion
Parents of children who participate in sports might be tempted to opt for an over-the-counter mouthguard for their young athlete, but a new study shows that custom-made mouthguards might reduce risk of concussion.
The study, published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry, studied 412 football players from six high school teams. Three teams—with 220 athletes—were randomly assigned to wear custom-made mouthguards and three teams—with 192 athletes—wore standard OTC mouthguards of their choice. All players wore the same style of football helmet.
Researchers found that 8.3 percent of athletes in the OTC mouthguard group suffered mild traumatic brain injuries/concussion injuries compared to only 3.6 percent in the custom mouthguard group. Researchers say that many variables contribute to MTBI/concussion injuries and mouthguards—used primarily to protect teeth—cannot prevent them from occurring. But previous studies have theorized that mouthguards might help reduce concussion risk by absorbing shock, stabilizing the head and neck and limiting movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw.
“Researchers and, most importantly, parents, are looking for ways to better protect children against concussions,” said lead author Dr. Jackson Winters, a pediatric dentist who has served as a high school and collegiate football official for 28 years. “Consumers may believe that today’s advanced helmet design provides sufficient protection, but our research indicates that, when compared to over-the-counter versions, a custom-made, properly fitted mouthguard also is essential to player safety.”
Mouthguard thickness might also be a factor contributing to protection. The average thickness of custom mouthguards in this study was 3.5 millimeters while the average thickness of the OTC mouthguards was only 1.6 millimeters. “Although more research on this topic is needed, our study shows the value of a custom-made mouthguard,” Dr. Winters said. “The benefits of protecting your child far outweigh the costs associated with a dental or medical injury, which is likelier to occur with a store-bought model.” According to MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer website, studies show that athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth if they’re not wearing a mouthguard. While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, are sports that pose a higher risk for mouth injuries, athletes can experience a mouth injury in non-contact activities too, such as gymnastics and skating. For more information on mouthguard use and care, visit MouthHealthy.org (http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/mouthguards) Your dentist can also advise you about the best sports protection options for your child and produce a custom mouthguard.
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