Mouthguards in Sports: A Necessary Piece of Equipment

Sports Mouthguards are absolutely necessary!

Youth and adolescent sports participation has grown steadily over the years. It is estimated that 20 to 25 million youths participate in competitive sports. As a result of this growth in participation levels, incidence of injury has also increased. Some have reported sports to account for approximately 36% of all unintentional injuries to children and adolescents. Of those injuries, 10-20% of all sports related injuries are maxillofacial injuries according to the American Dental Association.

The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports dental injuries as the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during sports participation. They contend that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard. Often times these injuries will result in permanent damage to oral structures which require medical intervention.

Types of Dental Injuries

Injuries to the teeth can be grouped in three different categories with care specific to each type.


Fractures can be classified as root fractures, tooth fractures and chipped teeth

  • If possible, stabilize portion of the tooth still in mouth by gently biting on towel to control bleeding
  • The injured athlete and the toot fragment should be transported immediately to a dentist.
  • best method of transpor of the fractured teeth are in Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution, or in milk, saline soaked gauze or under the athlete’s tongue.


Avulsions refer to injuries where the entire tooth, including the root, has been knocked out completely.

  • The tooth must NOT be handled by the root (only grab the crown)
  • The tooth should not be brushed, scrubbed or sterilized in any way.
  • If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse with water only.
  • If possible, place the tooth back in the socket and have the athlete gently bite down on a towel.  Have athlete see dentist ASAP.
  • If unable to reimplant the tooth, transport athelte and tooth to dentist as soon as possible.  Best method of transport of the fractured teeth are in Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution, or in milk, saline soaked gauze or under the athlete’s tongue.


Luxation refers to injuries where the traumatized tooth is in the socket, but in a wrong position, indicating it has been moved by the trauma.
Tooth can either be extruded (tooth appears longer than the surrounding teeth) or laterally displaced (tooth was pushed back or pulled forward)

  • The injured athlete should be transported immediately to a dentist.
  • Instruct athlete not to try to push the tooth back into original position.


Dental injuries are easily prevented. It has been suggested that a properly fitted custom mouthguard may reduce the rate of concussion as well as dental injuries.

Some experts recommend that mouthguards be worn by athletes in competitive and recreational sports in which impact, contact and collision are likely to occur. The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouthguards for the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling. Other experts include baseball and softball infielders on that list. They further recommend the mouthguard to be worn during all practices and competition.

Selecting a Mouth Guard

There are three types of mouthguards:

  • Ready-made or stock mouthguard
  • Mouth-formed “boil and bite” mouthguard
  • Custom-made mouthguard made by a dentist

These mouthguards vary in price and comfort, yet all provide some protection. According to the American Dental Association, the most effective mouthguard should be comfortable, resistant to tearing, and resilient. A mouthguard should fit properly, be durable, easily cleaned, and not restrict speech or breathing.

It is important to remember damaged teeth do not grow back. Protect that perfect smile – wear a mouthguard.