Playing sport with a cheap mouthguard purchased at a pharmacy or sports store?
Christina Johnson’s horrific injuries may prompt you to get a stronger one made by a dentist.
Last week Ms Johnson suffered severe trauma to her mouth when she was hit by a hockey stick during a game in Tasmania. She was wearing a mouthguard that offered little protection.
As a result, one of her front teeth was knocked out, another one was fractured and others were pushed back and displaced. Her lips and gums were also split by the force of the hockey stick.
Ms Johnson, now facing extensive reconstructive surgery, is one of many Australians that dentists say are sustaining potentially preventable injuries during sport because they don’t have a custom-made mouthguard.
Although the Australian Dental Association says a bespoke mouthguard will cost about $250 (compared to about $10 for an over-the-counter mouthguard), it may save you serious pain and thousands of dollars for surgery if you get injured.
Dr Peter Alldritt, chairman of the association’s Oral Health Committee, said people should give as much thought to their mouthguard as other sporting equipment because “$250 doesn’t go far when it comes to having a tooth fixed”.
“Not all of them (mouthguards) offer equal protection, and some of them can actually cause even more damage,” he said.
“Over-the-counter mouthguards are often difficult to wear and don’t provide the same level of protection as custom-fitted mouthguards; in contrast, custom-fitted mouthguards allow ease of breathing and speaking, and are far more comfortable.”
An association survey of about 1200 people recently found that three in four active adults who wear a mouthguard were using over-the-counter ones. Among children, it was one in two.
Ms Johnson said she had never considered getting a custom-fitted mouthguard from a dentist before she was injured last week.
“I thought the mouthguard I was wearing during the game, which I had bought from a store, was good enough”.
There is limited research assessing the protective effects of various mouthguards on athletes but a study of 301 Australian Rules footballers in 2001 concluded that those wearing custom-fitted mouthguards had a significantly lower rate of head and facial injuries than other players.
Sports Medicine Australia also recommends custom-fitted mouthguards for all contact sports to reduce the risk and severity of dental injuries because they can accommodate people’s unique arrangement and number of teeth and provide protection of vulnerable areas, such as the bony gum area finishing close to the junction of the inside of the cheek.
The group says a mouthguard is protective only if an adequate thickness of mouthguard material (4 millimetres – thickness of two matches) covers vulnerable areas including the biting surfaces of the upper teeth and the visible surfaces of the six front upper teeth upon which the lips rest.