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Do athletic mouthguards help protect my child from tooth and/or brain injury?

Posted by Keith B. Wong, DDS, MS, 10/15/2013

Do athletic mouthguards help protect my child from tooth and/or brain injury?

First, let me point out that many types of mouthguards are available—from thin, loosely-fitting generic models to precision-fit, pressure-laminated custom units.  Regarding tooth protection, most mouthguards offer some benefit; however, the better-fitting, thicker mouthguards are able to absorb and diffuse the impact energy of a given collision leading to greater protection from tooth injury.

Regarding the ability of mouthguards to prevent or reduce brain injury such as concussion, clear-cut evidence has been difficult to gather due to the difficulty of designing adequately controlled studies.  However, in a commentary for the Journal of Athletic Training, pediatric dentist Jackson Winter points out, “. . . preliminary work comparing the 1997 through 1999 NCAA college football seasons suggests that (properly fitted, pressure-laminated mouthguards) have made a difference (with respect to concussion resulting from a blow delivered to the mandibular complex).”  To effect this protection, he recommended a 3 to 4mm thickness separating the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the upper and lower posterior teeth.

Given the risks associated with sports-related head injuries and the potential for reducing those risks through the use of pressure-laminated mouthguards, I recommend that such mouthguards be utilized from an early age.  Custom fitted, this type of mouthguard requires less bulk and, therefore, is less likely to be resisted; early and consistent use creates a habit that can last throughout a sporting life.  More importantly, pressure-laminated guards offer the most effective tooth protection and, if preliminary results are correct, will likely lessen the risk of concussion and brain injury from mandibular impacts.

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  • Keith B. Wong

    Dr. Keith Wong has had the opportunity to successfully treat over three thousand patients. He uses the newest technologies, including advanced imaging, advancements in wire composition and bonding procedures, and Invisalign. He truly enjoys both the diagnostic process; the piecing together of the puzzle, and the treatment process; seeing the treatment plan come to life and change a self-conscious smile into a brilliant and healthy one. But most importantly, he enjoys working with patients, young or old, and helping them to achieve the results that they desire.

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