Mouthguard use increasing to prevent mouth related sports injuries

Hockey players are the poster boys for losing teeth. It’s woven into the culture of the sport where a toothless smile is a badge of courage on the ice.  Mouth related injuries are common in other sports as well.  One study estimates that five million teeth are knocked out in accidents every year.

When it comes to Sports, parents often spend hundreds of dollars on protective equipment for their kids.  Buying a mouthguard is traditionally a low cost item, if it’s even necessary.

"90 to 95 percent of mouth guards are sold over the counter, they are boil and bites," explained Dr. Richard Knowlton of Knowlton Dental Associates in Elizabethtown.

Boil and bites, you grab them off the shelves in the sporting goods department, mold them in boiling water and chew away.

"What ends up happening is they are falling out of their mouth. They're constantly chewing them to keep them up on their mouth.  It's a lot harder to end up breathing, a lot harder to communicate with other teammates because they have this mouthguard rolling around in their mouth."

Boil and bites start off with a decent fit.  By the end of the season, many are a mangled mess.  For Elizabethtown College's lacrosse team, they're a welcome piece of equipment, no matter their condition.

"I think it's pretty important," admitted Blue Jays Midfielder Cody Larkin.  "One of our attackers actually had his tooth knocked out in one of our previous games so it's definitely something that we should all be wearing."

Fortunately, the Blue Jays Head Athletic Trainer Bridget Spooner has not seen a lot of mouth injuries.  She definitely encourages the athletes to take precautions when it comes to protecting their mouth.

"It depends. Typically, if there is a person that has braces on and they are in a high contact sport, I'll recommend that they wear something to cover their braces because you typically see more there if someone gets hit in the mouth," said Spooner.  "Other than that, I would just say those that are comfortable wearing them are more than welcome to wear them."

Pretty good idea to wear one when you consider the pain and the expense of losing a tooth.  Let's address the intensity of the pain.

"A high school pitchers throw is typically recorded at 75 to 85 miles per hour.  A hockey player that hits a hockey puck, there's a force behind it of about 12 hundred 50 pounds per square inch. That's like getting hit in the face with a speeding car."

As for the expense, remember, the first fix is only temporary.

"Once a tooth is lost, it's gone forever," stated Dr. Knowlton.  "You're never going to be able to replace it where it has the same appearance. We can do some great things in the industry but unfortunately it's a huge amount of expense and ongoing expense.  Nothing lasts a lifetime so anything we can try to fix ends up costing significantly."

Total lifetime cost can be as high as $10,000 to $20,000.  That's why custom mouthguards are growing in popularity.  The price for ones made by dentists are usually between $200 and $500. Dental insurance plans generally do not cover the cost.

Dr. Knowlton is emphatic when he discusses the difference. "Ones made by a dentist by far gives you the best protection, gives you the best comfort and best ability to be able to communicate and it's actually been shown in some circles to actually increase athletic performance because you are able to breathe more effectively and efficiently as well."

Dr. Knowlton got his start with custom mouthguards when he was at Temple.  He made them for some of the boxers being trained by former heavyweight champ Smokin' Joe Frazier.