You see mouthguards in the Super Bowl, at the Olympics (both in summer and winter), and they’re often a staple of most professional, amateur, collegiate, and youth sports leagues around the country. But for parents, the question often on their minds is: why should my child wear a mouthguard?
The simple answer, of course, is to protect the mouth.
It should come as no surprise that one of the sports with the most potential for facial injury, boxing, is where mouthguards got their start. Professional boxing was the first organization to adopt a mouthguard requirement, in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until 1962, after the American Dental Association began recommending their use, that teenagers and children were required to wear mouthguards, starting with high school football programs.
Now, the ADA suggests wearing a mouthguard when participating in any number of high-velocity or contact-heavy sports, including basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, water polo, volleyball, cycling, martial arts, and more.
You wouldn’t let your child skip brushing and flossing their teeth daily, would you? Of course not, because good oral health sets the foundation for a lifetime of quality overall health. So why would you let your child risk oral or facial injuries while playing sports?
According to a recent study, athletes without mouthguards were at more than twice the risk for orofacial injury than those using them. Those injuries include fractures to teeth or facial bones, avulsions, luxations, intrusions, and more. Some of these injuries aren’t just costly to fix, either.
The mouth plays a role in many areas for kids, including:
- How they smile – A healthy smile can be used to show happiness, help with confidence, and as a non-verbal communication tool.
- How they speak – Teeth play a role in learning both verbal and non-verbal communication as a kid is growing up. Research has found that tooth extraction can affect speech patterns and even development.
- How they eat – Proper nutrition—including a healthy diet—plays a key role in life at any age. Eating becomes a lot harder without healthy teeth.
So any injury, particularly serious ones, can be detrimental to the wellbeing of your child.
Now that you know just how important it is that children wear mouthguards while participating in sports, it’s time to do something about it.
- First, check your dental benefits to see if mouthguards are covered. The best protection comes from one that has been custom made to fit your child’s mouth by your dentist.
- If you don’t have a mouthguard benefit, look for boil and bite or stock mouthguards at your local sporting goods store. Boil and bite versions offer a chance at a somewhat customized fit, while stock guards provide more general protection and comfort.
- Finally, talk to your child about the importance of their teeth and why they need to wear their mouthguard whenever they’re playing sports. Also make sure you discuss the best ways to keep them clean after use. They can get pretty gross fairly quickly.
Don’t forget, a healthy mouth doesn’t stop with a mouthguard. It requires year-round effort in the form of brushing twice and flossing at least once every single day and making sure regular visits to the dentist are as important as next season’s game schedule!
Looking for more children’s dental health tips? Check out the rest of our blog.