Back to School Sports mouthguards What should I, as a parent, know about Mouthguards? Mouthguards & dental trauma: The best mouthguard is one that a player will wear!!

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Back to School - Sports mouthguards

What should I, as a parent, know about Mouthguards?

Mouthguards & dental trauma:
The best mouthguard is one that a player will wear!!

Worldwide, 20-30% of 12 year olds have suffered dental injuries. The peak incidence of dental injuries is age 9-10 years, which coincides with an increase in sporting activity. Unsurprisingly, one of the most common causes of dental trauma is participation in contact sports (like hurling, GAA, rugby, boxing, football, Camogie, ice hockey, handball, basketball). Higher rates of dental injuries are seen in contact sports due to increased collisions at high speeds. Competitive matches hold higher risk of injury than training. The risk of dental injuries compared with general injuries is low but related costs are high so prevention is key. Most injuries involve the front upper 4 teeth which are still potentially immature and these teeth tend to be the most clinically aesthetically challenging and costly to restore. Ideally any activity where the potential for dental trauma can exist should utilize mouthguards to protect these vulnerable front teeth.

Role of Mouthguards in prevention of dental injuries:

A mouthguard (sportguard, gumshield) is defined as: a resilient device or appliance placed inside the mouth to reduce oral injuries, particularly to teeth & surrounding structures. They considerably diminish the injury to teeth subjected to stress in comparison with unprotected teeth.

Mouthguards act through distribution of the energy form impact, decreasing the likelihood & severity of dental injury & concussion. The exact mechanism depends on the direction of impact.

Table 1

Injury site

Effect of mouthguard

Mandible (Lower Jaw)

Cushioning action of material between arches reduces force of occlusal contacts, reducing crown & root damage


Reduces force of impact & brain concussion


Elasticity of material distributes force over greater area, reducing dental damage

Official recommendations:

The GAA have in their most recent congress made it mandatory for juvenile players up to the age of 18 years to wear mouthguards from the start of 2013. This rule will come into effect for senior players from the start of 2014. This is something that is welcomed by all in the dental profession. The current Irish recommendations for the most commonly played contact sports are seen in Table 2.

Contact Sport

Current guidelines of protective headgear


Recommended at all levels not compulsory


Face mask compulsory

GAA Football

Mouthguards mandatory from 2013 / 2014



Table 2

Mouthguards are preventative dentistry’s contribution to sports

Your Dentist can address these issues by providing more comfortable, high quality, well-fitting & properly designed mouthguards to prevent dental trauma that do not impact negatively on sporting performance. The aim is to identify high-risk patients and educate on advantages of prevention & the options available.

Patients at increased risk of dental trauma:

  • Playing contact sports

  • Increased overjet

  • Anterior restorations smile line

  • Orthodontics – increased tooth mobility, fabrication difficulty, additional injury from appliance

  • Mixed dentition – immature teeth

  • Previous trauma

Evidence for effectiveness:

The use of mouthguards is effective in reducing dental trauma. A reduction in oral & mouth injury rate from 50% to <0.5% was seen when mouthguard use was made mandatory in college football in US in 1962 (Heintz 1968) – there’s a bit of a statistic!

Next week we’ll be discussing the different types of mouthguards available to you.

In the meantime, if you have any concerns about sports mouthguards, please contact us on 01-6684357 or email: and we’ll be happy to help.

Authors: Dr Abigail Moore, B.Dent.Sc., MFD(RCSI), D.Ch.Dent. (U.Dubl.)

Practice Limited to Paediatric Dentistry

Edward O’Reilly, B.Dent.Sc., MFD (RCSI), M.Dent.Ch. (Prosth)(U.Dubl.)

Practice Limited to Prosthodontics and Implant Dentistry

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