April is National Facial Protection Month

***UPDATED: May 9, 2014*** National Facial Protection Month may be over, but the importance of wearing a mouthguard is still in the news.  According to a recent Medical News Today article, a study has found that young athletes who wear mouthguards have a lower risk of suffering a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) or concussion, than those without.  Additionally, those who wore store-bought, over-the-counter mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer a similar accident as those who had a professional, custom-made mouth piece.  There are many variables that contribute to the risk of concussion or MTBI, and wearing a mouthguard is only one.  Studies have shown that mouthguards reduce concussion risk though because they help absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw.  In addition to being safer, custom-made mouthguards typically last longer and are more comfortable to wear.  If you or a loved one are involved in any athletics, discuss being fitted for a mouthguard with your dentist.

April first marked the start of National Facial Protection Month, and five of the country’s most influential dental associations are speaking out about its importance.  The American Dental Association (ADA) is joined by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), the Academy for Sports Dentistry (ASD), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) in bringing attention to this cause.  Annually, it is estimated that approximately 2% of all kids who participate in a sport will be involved in a sports accident that involves a facial injury severe enough to require medical attention.  The campaign aims to encourage young athletes to protect themselves by wearing a protective mouth guard during recreational sports, according to a Dental Tribune article.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, about 10-40% of all dental injuries are sports related, and often caused by a direct hit from a hard object, like a puck or ball.  Player-to-player contact can also result in injury.  Dr. Paul Nativi, DMD, FASD, a past president of the Academy for Sports Dentistry, urges parents and coaches to require kids to wear a mouth guard.  He stated that “tooth loss incurs a tremendous financial, emotional, and psychological expense.” And in most cases, these accidents are completely avoidable if the proper protection is in place.  Not only do guards protect teeth from being lost, broken, or displace, they also protect the bone and tissue around the teeth, the mandible, and the temporomandibular joint in the jaw.

The dental associations have released the following tips to help prevent a facial injury:

  • Wear a mouth guard while participating in sports.  They are significantly cheaper than the cost to repair an injury, and your dentist can custom fit a guard to make talking and breathing easy.
  • Wear a helmet to absorb the energy of an impact and protect the head from any injury.
  • Protective eye wear should be worn considering how vulnerable eyes are to injury.
  • Face shields can be worn to protect against scratched or bruised skin, as well as severe facial damage.
  • Mouth guards are mandatory for athletes participating in football, hockey and boxing.  If they have been shown to significantly decrease the risk of oral injuries, they should be mandatory in every sport that kids participate in.

If you or a loved one is involved in extracurricular sports, talk to your dentist about the importance of protecting your mouth with a guard.  Preventative measures far outweigh the risks of suffering a significant dental injury.

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