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Keep Your Guard Up – Mouthguard Use Needs to Increase in Youth Athletes

Their use is plenty apparent in professional sports. You can see Stephen Curry fiddling with his in between free throws, or observe the numerous designs NFL players use on theirs. And it’s an automatic penalty to play without one in USA Hockey. 

But despite all of that, a recent Delta Dental survey says mouthguard usage in youth sports isn’t close to ideal levels. 

According to a recent survey, over 70 percent of athletes in basketball, baseball, and soccer aren’t using mouthguards during competition. The survey, conducted via questionnaires answered by parents, indicates a lack of knowledge about the serious risks posed by underutilization of the protective equipment.

“A child’s healthy smile needs to last a lifetime. Sports-related injuries cause millions of lost teeth annually. Well-fitted mouth guards can help significantly reduce the possibility of oral injuries during sporting activities, including non-contact sports too,” said Joseph Dill, DDS, MBA, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and network strategy. “Young athletes can grow to appreciate the mouth guard as one more essential layer of their protective uniforms.”

The following is a list of popular sports, and the percentage of children NOT wearing mouthguards during participation, according to the survey:

  • Gymnastics (79%) 
  • Volleyball (65%) 
  • Skiing (61%) 
  • Rugby (48%) 
  • Lacrosse (40%) 
  • Ice Hockey (38%) 
  • Field Hockey (34%) 
  • Boxing (34%) 
  • Football (26%)

Dr. Bill Busch, DMD, MAGD, is the team dentist for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. He’s interested in protecting the oral health of not only professional football players, but beginner-level athletes as well.

“As we know, researchers have already proved that most mouthguards can reduce concussion risk,” says Busch. “They work to stabilize the muscles of the neck, reduce the impact shock to the head and limit movement if there is a direct hit to the jaw. The thickness of a mouthguard also contributes to the level of protection." 

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