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    Mouth Madness: Mouthguards in youth sports

    For parents of young athletes, March Madness can be about more than brackets and seeds. The NCAA basketball tournament, which starts on March 18, also offers a high profile opportunity for caring adults to point out players who are using mouthguards during the games.

    That’s the advice of Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director of Delta Dental of Massachusetts.

    “Anyone who’s playing a contact sport will benefit from a mouthguard,” says Dr. Vidone. “There are a lot of emergency room visits related to mouth injuries … lacerations, cut lips, knocked-out teeth or chipped teeth. Most of that can be prevented with the use of a properly fitted mouthguard.”
    Although not required, many collegiate basketball players use mouthguards to help prevent mouth injuries. That’s a great example for kids, especially those who are not using mouthguards today.
    “According to a survey1 conducted by Delta Dental, six in 10 Americans say their children do not wear a mouthguard for basketball, soccer, baseball or softball,” says Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and policy. “But studies show that today’s basketball players are five times more likely to sustain an orofacial injury than football players,2 and use of mouthguards can reduce the rates of dental injuries and dental referrals.”
    Although mouthguard use is mandatory for some youth sports, such as ice hockey, football and lacrosse, dental professionals recommend young athletes wear them for all athletic activities where there is a strong potential for contact with other participants or hard surfaces. Delta Dental’s Dr. Vidone says it is also important to stress that mouthguards be worn during practices as well as games. Injuries are a possibility during practice, too, and most young athletes spend more time practicing than actually playing games.
    And they’re not just for kids – adults playing contact sports are just as susceptible to orofacial injuries.
    “Broken bones or strained muscles heal, but teeth don't. When kids lose, crack, or break teeth or damage the bone that holds them in place – whether in a practice or a game – they typically need extra dental care for the rest of their lives,” Dr, Vidone says. “And without mouth injuries, it’s much easier to cheer on your favorite team.”

    1 2013 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey.
    2Journal of the American Dental Association, “The incidence and severity of dental trauma in intercollegiate athletes,” August 2007.