More and more people are coming to understand that mouthguards worn during contact or collision sports play a critical role in reducing the number and extent of dental injuries.
What is not fully appreciated is that properly-fitted customised mouthguards, designed to fit the exact contours of your teeth and gums, provide superior protection to a mouthguard purchased "over-the-counter".
One person who has come to understand the difference is Christina Johnson, a recent veterinary graduate working in Smithton, Tasmania. Hit in the face with a hockey stick during a game last week, Christina suffered severe trauma to the mouth which included:
- One of her front teeth being knocked-out;
- The displacement and pushing back of multiple teeth;
- The fracture of one tooth;
- As well as lacerations to her lips and gums.
"I hadn't thought about getting a custom fitted mouthguard from a dentist to wear when I play sport. I thought the mouthguard I was wearing during the game, which I had bought from a store, was good enough. One girl on my hockey team wears a dentist fitted mouthguard but the rest of us use the ones you buy in stores. I really want to get the word out about how important it is to use a custom fitted mouthguard when playing sport", Christina said.
Facing extensive dental reconstructive surgery and being put on extended light duties at work, Christina is but one example of active people who week in and week out sustain injuries that could be prevented or minimised by the simple act of having a custom-mouthguard fitted by a dentist.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recently conducted the Dental Health in Active Australians survey. This survey found that three in four (75%) active adults who wear a mouthguard are using over-the-counter mouthguards. In children, the figure was one in two (53.3%). These concerning findings are the reason why the ADA's Dental Health Week (http://www.dentalhealthweek.com.au) held in the first week of August emphasised the importance of wearing properly-fitted, custom mouthguards.
Both the ADA and Sports Medicine Australia strongly recommend the use of a custom-fitted mouthguard in any sport or activity where collision or contact is likely, both during games and training.
"The ADA emphasises once again to active Australians, schools, sporting clubs and associations, that as much thought needs to be given to the type of mouthguard worn as any other piece of sporting equipment," said Dr Peter Alldritt, Chair of the ADA's Oral Health Committee.
"While everyone should wear a mouthguard, not all of them offer equal protection, and some of them can actually cause even more damage.
"Over-the-counter mouthguards are often difficult to wear and don't provide the same level of protection as custom-fitted mouthguards; in contrast, custom-fitted mouthguards allow ease of breathing and speaking, and are far more comfortable.
"We urge active adults and the parents of active children to visit their dentist before their next game and have a custom made mouthguard."