Sports Dentistry


Sports Dentistry is the treatment and prevention of oral/facial athletic injuries and related oral diseases and manifestations.

In sports, the challenge is to maximize the benefits of participation and to limit injuries. Sports dentistry has a major role to play in this area. Prevention and adequate preparation are the key elements in minimizing injuries that occur in sport. For sports dentistry the prevention of oral/ facial trauma during sporting activities can be helped by many facets.
Included are teaching proper skills such as tackling technique, purchase and maintenance of appropriate equipment, safe playing areas and certainly the wearing and utilization of properly fitted protective equipment.

In some sports, injury prevention, through properly fitted mouthguards are considered essential. These are the contact sports of football, boxing, martial arts and hockey. Other sports, traditionally classified as non contact sports, basketball, baseball, bicycle riding, roller blading, soccer, wrestling, racquetball, surfing and skateboarding also require properly fitted mouthguards, as dental injuries unfortunately, are a negative aspect of participation in these sports.

The National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries, reports several interesting statistics. Dental injuries are the most common type of oral facial injuries sustained during participation in sports. Victims of tooth avulsions who do not have the teeth properly preserved or replanted will face lifetime dental costs estimated from $10-15,000 per tooth, the inconvenience of hours spent in the dental chair and possibly other dental problems.

Treatment of oral/facial injuries, simple or complex, is to include not only treatment of injuries at the dental office, but also treatment at the site of injury, such as a basketball court or football or rugby field, where the dentist may not have the convenience of all the diagnostic tools available at their office. Knowledge and ability to do “on site” differential diagnosis is essential, without the use of radiographs and dental operatories, to determine the future treatment and prognosis of the injury.

Preseason screenings and examinations are essential in preventing injuries.

 Examinations are to include health histories, at risk dentitions, diagnosis of caries, maxilla/mandibular relationships, orthodontics, loose teeth, dental habits, crown and bridge work, missing teeth, artificial teeth, and the possible need for
extractions for orthodontic concerns or wisdom teeth. These extractions should be done months prior to playing competitive sports as to not interfere with their competition or weaken their jaws during competition. Determination of the need for a specific type and design of mouthguard is made at this time.

Mouthguard design and fabrication is extremely important.
There are different types of mouthguards. Stock, Boil and Bite, and Custom made.

First of all, it is essential to educate the public that stock and boil and bite mouthguards bought at sporting goods stores do not provide the optimum treatment expected by the athlete. These ill-fitting mouthguards cannot deal with idiosyncrasies athletes and children may have. If everyone had the same dentition; were of the same gender; played the same sport under the same conditions; had the same experience and played the same position at the same level of competition, and were the same age and same size mouth, with the same number and shape of teeth, prescribing a standard mouthguard would be simple. This is the precise reason why mouthguards bought at sporting goods
stores, without the recommendation of a qualified dental professional, should not be worn.

Idiosyncrasies are to be noted during mouthguard design and fabrication. These may include jaw relationships where mouthguards may have to be designed on the mandibular arch such as a Class III prognathic bite.
Otherwise, where possible, mouthguards should be built on the maxillary (upper) arch.

Erupting teeth (ages 6-12) should be noted so the mouthguard can be designed to allow for eruption during the season. Boil and bite mouthguards do not allow for this eruption space.

For patients with braces, special designs for the mouthguards are essential to allow for orthodontic movement without
compromising on injury prevention and fit. This can only be achieved through consultations with your dentist.

Sports Dentistry also includes the need for recognition and referral guidelines to the proper medical personnel for non-maxillofacial related injuries which may occur during a dental/facial injury. These injuries may include cerebral concussion and head and neck injuries. If certain symptoms are present, such as persistent headaches or nausea, immediate referral to medical personnel is essential.

Smokeless tobacco should also be included and addressed under Sports Dentistry. Smokeless tobacco is often associated with certain sports, and the public should be educated on the dangerous properties and consequences of using smokeless tobacco.

As you can see sports dentistry deals with much more than just mouthguards.

Sports Dentistry Facts ~ Facts from the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety

Dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during participation in sports; the
majority of these dental injuries are preventable.

An athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard.

The cost of a fractured tooth is many times greater than the cost of a dentist diagnosed and designed professionally made mouthguard.

Every athlete involved in contact sport has about a 10% chance per season of an orofacial injury, or a 33-56% chance during an athletic career.

The cost to replant a tooth and the follow-up dental treatment is about $5000.

Victims of knocked out teeth who do not have a tooth properly preserved or replanted may face lifetime dental costs of $15,000-$20,000/tooth, hours in the dental chair, and the possible development of other dental problems such as periodontal disease.

It is estimated that faceguards and mouthguards prevent approximately 200,000 injuries each year in high school and college football.

The stock mouthguard which is bought at sports stores without any individual fitting, provide only a low level of protection, if any. If the wearer is rendered unconscious, there is a risk the mouthguard may lodge in the throat potentially causing an airway obstruction.

Facts from the American Dental Association

A properly fitted mouthguard reduces the chances of sustaining a concussion from a blow to the jaw.

Mouthguards should be worn at all times during competition; in practice as well as in games.

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