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Should Your Little One Use A Mouthguard For Sport?

With long summer days and evenings, it's a great time of year for children to be active outdoors. Inspired by Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the Lions Rugby Tournament, your little ones will no doubt be as active as ever over the next few months.

While sports activity is a vital part of summer fun, however, the change in routine and lack of structured or formal sports matches, can mean that thought for sports safety falls down the priority list. 

Since the GAA Congress ruling in April 2012, there has been a mandatory requirement for mouthguards for all Gaelic football matches. This move is in line with International sports such as American Football, Ice Hockey and Rugby Union.

Recent research statistics indicate that Ireland has one of the highest rates of sports-related dental/oral injuries in Europe. Approximately one-third of adult dental injuries are linked to sports. Other studies have shown that overall injury is almost twice as high when a mouthguard is not worn. Costs accrued for dental treatment following dental injury caused by sports can be significant, depending on the injury involved, and it is interesting to note that under some Sports Injury Schemes, there is even a provision that players will not be covered if they fail to wear a mouthguard. 

In thinking about how to best protect your active child’s teeth and oral health this summer and beyond, here are some top tips on mouthguard use:

All mouthguards should:

  1. Be made of resilient material
  2. Be properly fitted and accurately adapted to the mouth
  3. Cover all teeth on one arch, usually upper arch
  4. Stay in place securely (maximum retention)
  5. Have high-impact energy absorption capacity which will decrease transmitted forces upon any impact
  6. Be easy to clean

In Ireland, there are three distinct types of mouthguard available: 

1. Stock mouthguards

These are pre-formed and ready to wear. They are inexpensive but can affect breathing/talking and feel cumbersome.

2. Boil and bite mouthguards

These are available to buy in most sports shops. Usually, you place the mouthguard into warm water and bite as per instructions to mould the plastic. These types of mouthguard are relatively inexpensive but can be very bulky and can sometimes tend not to have best retention. While they do satisfy the mandatory ruling of most sports clubs, be aware that the CE mark must be present on the device packaging, indicating that it has met certain acceptable standards.

3. Custom-fit mouthguards

These offer the best protection. They require a visit to your local dentist who will take an impression and get the mouthguard professionally manufactured in a laboratory. These are tailored devices which uniquely fit your child’s dentition. They offer best protection, best retention and are the most comfortable to wear. 

For further information, visit www.dentalcareireland.ie


About the Author

Dr Paul O’Dwyer BDS, MSc is group clinical advisor at Dental Care Ireland, a new Irish-owned network of established dental practices nationwide. For further information, visit www.dentalcareireland.ie

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