Study: Basketball had highest rate of dental traumatic injuries

Featured / Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

During football and basketball seasons dentists know they can expect safety-minded parents to be asking about mouth guards for their kids.

Fortunately, mouth guard use has been mandated for high school football players since 1962; the NCAA subsequently adopted the same policy for college football in 1973.

Fifty years ago, an estimated 50 percent of all high school football injuries were to the mouth and face. Today that rate has been slashed to fewer than 2 percent, due in large part to the success of this mouth guard mandate.  In addition to football, the mandate extends to other contact sports as well, including hockey, boxing, and lacrosse.

That’s all well and good with respect to high-collision sports, but the real trouble with dental-related sports injuries is that they are actually far more prevalent elsewhere.  So which sport is the worst offender?  Basketball.

In 2007, the outcome of a nine-year study of the University of Southern California’s athletic department reported basketball had the highest rate of dental traumatic injuries among all intercollegiate sports, with over 10 injuries per 100 athlete-seasons among men’s basketball players. Yet, only an estimated 7 percent of basketball players wear mouth guards.  Without a doubt, this unfortunate disparity will be attracting the attention of sports regulators as the game continues to transform more into a highly physical, contact-heavy sport.

If your kids are athletes, you need to know that dental injuries will happen to kids who play sports.  Do right by your kids and take measures to avoid an agonizingly painful, ridiculously expensive, life-interrupting dental trauma.

Despite the myriad of design variations and colorful bells and whistles, sports mouth guards can be generally grouped into three “grades.”

• Stock mouth guards are usually issued by schools in order to comply with football’s mouth guard mandate, but they tend to fit poorly and do not distribute forces evenly in the event of a traumatic impact.

• The “boil-and-bite” varieties can be customized for a somewhat improved fit and better force distribution but are notorious for poor durability – players often chew them to pieces while waiting on the sidelines.

• A custom-fabricated guard made by a dentist is a wonderful option with regard to protection, fit, comfort, and durability, but the price will be a little higher than that of its one-size-fits-all cousins.

Regardless of which type of guard you choose, remember that it’s always better for your child to be protected with something rather than nothing.

It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – please don’t take the risk of your child sustaining a dental injury without the protection of a mouth guard.  Talk to your dentist and bring your kids into the discussion.  You only get one set of adult teeth – help your kids keep them as healthy as possible.

This article was reposted from here with credit going to Dr. Benjamin Drechsler –