A child’s mouth and face can be easily injured if the proper precautions are not used while playing sports. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of the 7 million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by youth as young as 5 years-old. Last year, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) forecasted that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events– yet, in a survey* commissioned by the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists), 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. The NYSSF says that athletes who do not wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to sustain damage to their teeth. This raises a question: if mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?
The AAO survey* found that 84 percent of children do not wear mouth guards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads. Mouth guards can be one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they help protect jaws. Children wearing braces have slightly higher risk of oral injuries, including mouth lacerations, if their braces are hit by a ball or another player.
An effective mouth guard holds teeth in place, resists tearing and allows for normal speech and breathing. It should cover the teeth and, depending on the patient’s bite, also the gums. An orthodontist can recommend the best mouth guard for an athlete who wears braces. In fact, just by wearing a properly fitted mouth guard, many accidents and traumatic injuries could be prevented. The American Dental Association estimates that mouth guards prevent more than 200,000 oral injuries each year.