If you're a parent considering buying a mouthguard for your child, you're probably wanting to reduce their risk of a sports-related injury. The question is not whether or not your child needs a mouthguard, but whether you should visit a dentist for a custom-made mouthguard or a sporting goods store.
"High school football players wearing store-bought, over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injures (MTBI)/concussions than those wearing custom-made, properly fitted mouthguards, according to a recent study in General Dentistry, a peer-reviewed clinical journal by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
The study followed 412 players from six high school football teams. 220 of the student athletes were randomly assigned to wear custom-made mouthguards, and 192 student athletes wore standard OTC mouthguards of their own choosing. All players wore the same style of football helmet. 8.3 percent of athletes in the OTC mouthguard group suffered MTBI/concussion injuries VS those with custom-made mouthguards where the rate was only 3.6 percent.
“Researchers and, most importantly, parents, are looking for ways to better protect children against concussions,” said lead author Jackson Winters, DDS, a pediatric dentist who also served as a high school and collegiate football official for 28 years.
Mouthguard Thickness Matters
Additionally, mouthguard thickness also has been shown to be a factor that contributes to the level of protection. The average thickness of the custom-made mouthguards in this study was 3.50 millimeters, while the average thickness of the OTC mouthguards was only 1.65 millimeters.
“Consumers may believe that today’s advanced helmet design provides sufficient protection, but our research indicates that, when compared to over-the-counter versions, a custom-made, properly fitted mouthguard also is essential to player safety.”
While sports mouthguards cannot completely prevent MTBI/concussion injuries from occurring, they can reduce concussion risk, by absorbing shock, stabilizing the head and neck, and limiting movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw.
Lasts Longer. More Comfortable. More Protection.
Custom-made mouthguards also can last longer than store-bought models and may be less prone to damage by the athletes, said AGD Spokesperson, Eugene Antenucci, DDS, FAGD. “Over-the-counter mouthguards are not fitted to the athlete’s mouth, making them less comfortable than custom guards made by a dentist. When a mouthguard is not comfortable, the athlete is likely to chew it, reducing its thickness and resulting in less protection.”
“Although more research on this topic is needed, our study shows the value of a custom-made mouthguard,” Winters said. “The benefits of protecting your child far outweigh the costs associated with a dental or medical injury, which is likelier to occur with a store-bought model.”