Sports are usually seen as good for your health – but as dentists we see them a little differently. Playing certain sports puts you at a great risk of chipping or even losing a tooth, so you should always wear a professionally fitted mouth guard and be prepared for emergencies.
Check out five of the riskiest sports for your teeth.
1. “Ball and Stick” Games
Hockey, hurling, camogie, cricket – between sticks flailing and a ball flying through the air, hockey is a definite risk for the teeth. Add to that close proximity of knees and elbows and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Although wearing compulsory helmets greatly reduced the risk of injuries, accidents involving chipped or broken teeth are still common.
Since January 1st 2014, it has been mandatory for players in all grades to wear a mouth guard in all Gaelic football games and practice sessions.
The introduction of this rule has led to a drop of 37% in the number of dental injury claims made via the GAA Injury benefit fund, resulting from incidents in Gaelic football training sessions and matches in grades up to Minor in 2013.
At adult level a similar drop of 39% occurred in 2014 proving the benefits of wearing a mouth guard in reducing the risk of dental injuries.
You might be surprised to see basketball at the top of this list as strictly speaking basketball is a non-contact sport.
Yet, the reality of the situation is that basketball is the most dangerous sport with the highest rate of dental injury.
A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that basketball had the highest number of dental injuries among all sports. In fact, 1 in 10 male players suffered a dental injury every season. Because there is no oral protection required for this sport, it puts players at great risk of a mouth injury.
Just think of all those elbows flying everywhere and how hard the court can be for players who suffer a fall – it’s easy to see how basketball can put your teeth at risk.
The bicycle is the piece of sporting equipment most commonly linked to mouth injuries in children, according to the American Dental Association.
Bumps in the road and sudden falls can cause some nasty injuries. Make sure that you or your child always wears a helmet and preferably, also a professionally fitted mouth guard.
It’s no surprise that rugby puts your teeth at risk – but you might be surprised that it is less dangerous than sports such as basketball or cycling.
This is due to many parents and players realising that rugby is a contact sport and wearing a mouth guard is important.
Unfortunately, according to a study conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation, only a third of our children are wearing mouth guards while playing rugby at school.
Not wearing a mouth guard can result in cracked or even knocked out teeth, and with that severe pain and a lifetime of extensive and possibly expensive treatment.
Mouth guards for children, therefore, should not be optional; they should be one of the first things in the kit bag, before you buy them the fancy pair on Nike shoes.
5. Boxing and martial arts
When someone is throwing punches at your face, oral injuries seem unavoidable. Boxers and participants in martial arts can suffer blows to their mouths, leading to cut cheeks and lips, and potentially damage to their teeth.
The good news is that boxers typically wear mouth guards, which protect them from the worst of any impact. This is the reason why boxing and martial arts landed only in fifth place on our list.
If you are not wearing professionally fitted dental guards, be prepared for dental emergencies.
This is a picture of a 23-year-old girl injured in a “friendly” game of hockey. She was wearing a cheap, over-the-counter mouth guard she bought at a chemist.
Before you or your child begins any sport, talk to your dentist about getting a mouth guard. Although you can buy lower cost mouth guards at chemists or online, the most effective ones will be customized to fit the exact shape of your mouth.
Whether you’re a point guard on the varsity team or you’re a weekend warrior, speak to your family dentist about what type of mouth guard would be right for you. Don’t end up toothless in a tackle, wear a mouth guard.
Link to main mouth guard page