Nov. 10, 2005
When speaking of mouthguard use in sports, most often one would think of a traditional contact sport such as football, basketball, or hockey. However, through education and public service announcements, other athletes involved in a multitude of sports have found the mouthguard to be a valuable piece of equipment.
Custom mouthguard use in volleyball has become increasingly more popular in the last few years. In addition to the traditional intraoral protection, mouthguards have been shown to reduce the likelihood of a concussive event.
Mouthguards are used to protect against bruising of the lips and cheeks, intraoral soft tissue lacerations, tooth fractures, and fractures or dislocations of the jaw. A player's face and mouth are both exposed and vulnerable during routine play while attempting to block a spike or dig a struck ball. In addition, player to player collisions are not uncommon during a volley in which everyone is focused on the play. We had the opportunity to treat a volleyball player involved in a mouth to head collision in which her 2 front teeth were dislodged. Fortunately, we were able to save both teeth, but not without root canal treatment. With a mouthguard in place, this injury would have been prevented.
The mouthguard is not without controversy. Many in sport dentistry believe that another protective function of the mouthguard is to help absorb the energy of an impact to the head either from the ball, another player, or the floor. Many neurologists and neurosurgeons are skeptical of this value of the mouthguard. The importance here is that the previously mentioned head trauma may result in a concussion. With a mouthguard in place, the likelihood of a traumatic brain injury is reduced in part to the absorptive properties of the material dissipating the wave of energy, thus decreasing the amount of bone deformation and rise in intracranial pressure. Research is ongoing to resolve this controversy.
In order to be most effective, a mouthguard should be custom made to an accurate model of the athletes' mouth, be comfortable in wearing with thin edges so as not to impinge on speech or breathing, have sufficient retention to avoid accidental dislodgement during play, and be resilient enough to resist breakage. All of these criteria are met with a custom fitted mouthguard fabricated by a dental professional as compared to a traditional "boil and bite" mouthguard that can be purchased at a local sporting goods store, which tends to be bulkier, less retentive and less tolerated. With the use of custom mouthguards, the number of injuries in and around the head and neck has decreased by fifty percent.
Contact your athletic trainer or local dentist to make arrangements for a custom fitted mouthguard.