football players in game

The Importance of Mouthguards in Hockey and Football

Mouthguards are a misunderstood piece of protective equipment that players, their parents, and coaches alike, don’t always take seriously. However, mouthguards are essential for high impact sports, like football and hockey, and they are recommended by virtually every dental professional. But just what makes them necessary?

The Benefits of Mouthguards

The primary function of mouthguards is to protect the teeth from being chipped, fractured, or knocked out as a result of a direct blow to the face, something that is fairly common in both hockey and football. Protecting the teeth, in turn, protects the lips and cheeks from lacerations due to chipped or broken teeth. It is also often instinct to bite down before an impact, and a mouthguard gives a player something to bite into.

Mouthguards have a secondary function, though, as a shock absorber. Any significant blow to the chin can result in a force that travels from the chin to the jaw bone, into the teeth and facial bones. By acting as a shock absorber, mouthguards lessen the impact of the blow and prevent injuries, such as fractures, to the jaw. Broken jaws, and chipped or lost teeth, are not only hard to fix, but painful. It is best just to wear a mouthguard.

There is a hot debate as to whether or not mouthguards can prevent concussions. As of yet, there is no proof that mouthguards prevent or lessen concussions after an impact, because no studies have ever been done. However, “absence of proof is not proof of absence,” say Dr. Paul McCrory, a neurologist and sports physician. Can mouthguards potentially prevent concussions the same way they prevent jaw injuries, by absorbing the shock? It remains a debate. However, a 2009 literature review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, noted that athletes not wearing a mouthguard experienced concussions that were more severe than those athletes wearing mouthguards. (MomsTeam)

Mouthguards are especially important for those wearing braces, which are sharp and can cause severe lacerations on the lips and inside of the mouth in the event of a collision. An impact against braces can even cause permanent dental injuries or damage to the braces. By preventing damage to braces, mouthguards, preferably one’s made of flexible materials that don’t stick to the braces, like Mueller’s Matrix Braces Protection Mouthgard, saves having to make an extra trip to the orthodontist, which costs time and money.

For maximum protection, a mouthguard should cover all the teeth and the bite should be balanced. The thicker the better, but the comfort of the athlete also needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to thickness. It is also important that the mouthguard stays in place in the event of an impact, and so the athlete does not have to continuously bite down to keep it in place.

Though misunderstood, mouthguards are an essential piece of protective equipment for high impact sports. Plus, they are required for football and hockey in the United States for all leagues.  And they work! Studies found that there were more mouth injuries in sports like basketball and soccer where mouthguards are not required, than football and hockey, where it is required. If you would like more information on one of our products, please feel free to contact us.