If we could go back in time, we all probably have a few things we wish we could change. Recently, Dr. Travis Stork, emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors, shared one of his do-over dreams with Dear Doctor magazine: “If I [could have] gone back and told myself as a teenager what to do, I would have worn a mouthguard, not only to protect my teeth but also to help potentially reduce risk of concussion.”
What prompted this wish? The fact that as a teenage basketball player, Stork received an elbow to the mouth that caused his two front teeth to be knocked out of place. The teeth were put back in position, but they soon became darker and began to hurt. Eventually, both were successfully restored with dental crowns. Still, it was a painful (and costly) injury — and one that could have been avoided.
You might not realize it, but when it comes to dental injuries, basketball ranks among the riskier sports. Yet it’s far from the only one. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), there are some two dozen others — including baseball, hockey, surfing and bicycling — that carry a heightened risk of dental injury. Whenever you’re playing those sports, the ADA recommends you wear a high-quality mouth guard.
Mouthguards have come a long way since they were introduced as protective equipment for boxers in the early 1900’s. Today, three different types are widely available: stock “off-the-shelf” types that come in just a few sizes; mouth-formed “boil-and-bite” types that you adapt to the general contours of your mouth; and custom-made high-quality mouthguards that are made just for you at the dental office.
Of all three types, the dentist-made mouthguards are consistently found to be the most comfortable and best-fitting, and the ones that offer your teeth the greatest protection. What’s more, recent studies suggest that custom-fabricated mouthguards can provide an additional defense against concussion — in fact, they are twice as effective as the other types. That’s why you’ll see more and more professional athletes (and plenty of amateurs as well) sporting custom-made mouthguards at games and practices.
“I would have saved myself a lot of dental heartache if I had worn a mouthguard,” noted Dr. Stork. So take his advice: Wear a mouthguard whenever you play sports — unless you’d like to meet him (or one of his medical colleagues) in a professional capacity…
It might seem that adults who play aggressive, high-contact professional sports (ice hockey, for example) have the highest chance of sustaining dental injuries. But for many — like NHL hall-of-famer Mike Bossy — their first injured teeth came long before they hit the big time.
“The earliest [dental injury] I remember is when I was around 12,” the former New York Islanders forward recently told an interviewer with the Huffington Post. That came from a stick to Bossy’s mouth, and resulted in a chipped front tooth. “Unfortunately, money was not abundant back in those days, and I believe I finally had it repaired when I was 16.” he said.
You may also think there’s a greater chance of sustaining dental trauma from “collision sports” like football and hockey — but statistics tell a different story. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), you (or your children) are more likely to have teeth damaged while playing soccer than football — and basketball players have a risk that’s 15 times higher than football players.
So — whether the game is hockey, basketball or something else — should you let the chance of dental injury stop you or your children from playing the sports they love? We think not… but you should be aware of the things you can do to prevent injury, and the treatment options that are available if it happens.
Probably the single most effective means of preventing sports-related dental injuries is to get a good, custom-made mouth guard — and wear it. The AGD says mouthguards prevent some 200,000 such injuries every year. And the American Dental Association says that athletes who don’t wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to sustain harm to the teeth than those who do.
Many studies have shown that having a custom-fitted mouthguard prepared in a dental office offers far greater protection then an off-the-shelf “small-medium-large” type, or even the so-called “boil and bite” variety. Using an exact model of your teeth, we can fabricate a mouthguard just for you, made of the highest-quality material. We will ensure that it fits correctly and feels comfortable in your mouth — because if you don’t wear it, it can’t help!
But even if you do have an injury, don’t panic: Modern dentistry offers plenty of ways to repair it! The most common sports-related dental injuries typically involve chipped or cracked teeth. In many cases, these can be repaired by bonding with tooth-colored composite resins. For mild to moderate injury, this method of restoration can produce a restoration that’s practically invisible. It’s also a relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive procedure, which makes it ideal for growing kids, who may elect to have a more permanent restoration done later.
If you have questions about mouthguards or sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards,” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”