Dental Injuries – Prevention Is Always Better Than The Cure
Dental injuries can be painful, disfiguring, expensive and often require long-term management. Minimising their occurence should be top of mind when playing sport or undertaking physical exercise.
Common injuries can include cuts to the lips, gums, cheeks, tongue and face; chipped, broken or knocked out teeth; and in severe cases a broken jaw.
Such injuries can result in time off work or school, lengthy treatment and long-term physical and monetary costs.
This is not a small problem – From 2002 to 2004, at least 2,000 dental injuries were treated in Victorian hospital emergency departments. Most of these were caused during organised sports such as football, basketball, netball, cricket, hockey and soccer or recreational activities such as cycling, skateboarding and riding a scooter.
To help prevent dental injuries, Smartplay, Sports Medicine Australia’s sports injury prevention program funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, is encouraging those playing sport or undertaking recreational activities, where there is risk of facial injury, to protect their mouth by wearing an appropriately designed and made mouthguard.
What Type of Mouthguard
Custom-fitted mouthguards are considered to provide the best protection for the teeth, lips and jaw. They provide a close fit, comfort and cushioning (shock absorption) effect.
Other types of mouthguards are available such as the boil and bite (formed to the upper teeth after the lining is softened in boiling water) and the ready-to-wear which comes pre-formed, however, both offer limited protection.
What features should a mouthguard have
To get the most protection from a mouthguard, it should have the following
- Be comfortable but a tight fit within the mouth
- Allow normal breathing and swallowing
- Allow normal speech
- Be the correct thickness (4mm) over the teeth to provide protection against impact
- Not cause gagging
- Be odourless and tasteless.
How should I care for a mouthguard?
To maintain a mouthguard’s protective qualities it needs to be cared for after
- Rinsing it in soap and warm (not hot) water or mouthwash after each use and allowing it to air-dry
- Keeping it in a well-ventilated plastic storage box (with several holes) when it is not in use
- Not leaving it in direct sunlight or hot conditions such as in a closed car or in a car’s glovebox
- Ensuring it is in good condition before each use
- Having a dentist check it at check ups
- Replacing it if it is damaged.
And remember the cost of an injury to the teeth or jaw far exceeds the cost of any type of mouthguard!
So do your teeth a favour and wear a mouthguard when playing sport or undertaking recreational activities.
For further information on mouthguards and how to prevent sporting dental injuries, download a copy of the Smartplay Mouthguards – Preventing Dental Injuries in Sport Fact Sheet from www.sma.org.au