We all love a cool crisp fall day when our favorite SEC team is playing or we are tailgating at Nissan Stadium before a Titans game.
But while you watch, have you ever thought about the amount of contact the head and neck receives each week for football players? Or about which sports are considered contact sports and what the likelihood is of getting a blow to the face? How can you protect our athletes’ teeth and more importantly – the surrounding bone and soft tissue?
Which Sports Are “Contact Sports”
According to the medical dictionary, a contact sport is defined as a sport in which the players have a range of contact with either each other or with inanimate objects. The term encompasses a range of kinetics; the term contact sport has been divided into full contact (collision), semi-contact, limited contact, and non-contact sports. If we think about this definition there are few sports that wouldn’t fall into one of these categories. Football, basketball, wrestling, hockey and boxing are obvious, but what about baseball, soccer or even volleyball? Oftentimes we are watching both our favorite professional team and our children play during the same season, but do we ever think about the care these professional athletes receive for their mouth and teeth? Is there anything we can do to better protect our children from injury?
Custom-Fitted vs. Ready-Made Mouth Guards
There are plenty of mouth guards you can get at your local sporting goods store, however many of those are not made to fit your mouth specifically. A lot of times you warm them up, bite into them and hope that you get a good fit. Sometimes they are too bulky and make it hard for the athlete to breathe. One of the most important aspects of a protective guard according to health professionals is one that fits perfectly to the teeth to provide maximum support and allow for full oxygen consumption.
The Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital found that high school football players wearing store-bought mouth guards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries as those wearing properly fitted, custom mouth guards. This is far more important than the obvious effects on the teeth, jaws and surrounding soft tissue.
We recommend that athletes who are playing contact sports seek out their dental professional for an evaluation of a custom mouth guard. There are many scenarios that a small investment on the front end can be worth much more on the back end – for example, replacing a tooth that has been knocked out or getting medical care for a puncture wound on your lip can quickly become very costly situations, not to mention that the amount of time lost in either scenario pales in comparison to simply getting fitted for a guard. The pain, cosmetic concerns and long term health prognosis especially to a developing adolescent can all be avoided. The American Dental Association’s stance on preventing orofacial sports related injuries can be found here: http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/mouthguards. We are passionate about being at the forefront of protecting the young athletes in our community. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive approach to each patient and find ways to improve their overall well-being.
For more information on the evaluation process, steps to obtain a custom mouth guard or to be a part of the Guard Our Athletes program please call (615) 377-6306.