Mouthguard protects athletes against head trauma and mouth damage

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NEW HAVEN Conn. (WTNH) —  When student athletes hit the field for fall sports, most believe they are fully protected from injuries with a helmet, knee pads and shin guards.

However, parents and coaches should brush up on how to prevent or treat a tooth emergency. Prosthodontist Dr. Damon Jenkins stopped by our station to explain how to prevent and treat mouth emergencies.

Some athletes may think that a mouth guard is optional or really not important because they don’t play a high contact sport, but a mouth injury can occur during any physical activity. While there has been a crucial focus on preventing concussions, parents and coaches need to be just as concerned about players’ smiles. It’s not just about the teeth, but also protecting the jaw and surrounding bone and tissue from damage. Even if a player wears a helmet, a custom mouthguard is essential.

Many have speculated that mouthguards can prevent some sports-related concussions, by helping to absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw. But there has been little evidence until a study published in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry, the peer reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry. The study found that high school football players wearing store-bought mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries than those wearing properly fitted, custom mouthguards. The findings showed that 8.3 percent of the athletes wearing using over-the-counter standard mouthguards suffered brain injuries.

However, only 3.6 percent of the players wearing custom mouthguards suffered concussions.The study also indicated that mouthguard thickness is a factor in the level of protection from mouthguards. The average thickness of custom-made mouthguards worn in the study was 3.5 millimeters, while the average thickness of the over-the-counter mouthguards was only 1.65 millimeters.

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