COMPILED BY JOHN JOSEPH PARKER, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
WITH PARENTS IN THE UNITED States preparing their kids for sports, there is an important piece of protective equipment that remains relevant year-round—the mouth guard. But a recent national survey of parents, sponsored by Delta Dental, indicates a widespread lack of mouth guard use in sporting activities that poses risks to children’s teeth and facial bones.
According to the Children’s Oral Health Survey, a majority of American children are not wearing mouth guards during basketball (72 percent), soccer (71 percent) and baseball (70 percent), among other sports.
This Delta Dental-sponsored survey identified that a significant gap in mouth guard use translates to millions of children nationwide participating in sports unprotected. For example, the results showed about 37 million children age 12 years old and under are not wearing mouth guards while playing soccer.
“A child’s healthy smile needs to last a lifetime,” explains Joseph Dill, DDS, MBA, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and network strategy. “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. Young athletes can grow to appreciate the mouth guard as one more essential layer of their protective uniforms.”
Respondents also indicated their children are not wearing mouth guards during gymnastics (79 percent), volleyball (65 percent), skiing (61 percent), rugby (48 percent), lacrosse (40 percent), ice hockey (38 percent), field hockey (34 percent), boxing (34 percent) and football (26 percent).
Mouth guards can help protect against lost or cracked teeth; fractures to roots, crowns, cheekbones and jawbones; teeth being pushed out of the socket; abrasions and broken or damaged blood vessels; and cuts to soft tissue, such as the tongue, cheeks, gums and lips.