Dental professionals want to make mouthguards compulsory for schoolchildren and club players participating in contact sports.
Recent studies reveal that between 13% and 39% of all dental injuries are sports-related and about one in four children in the UK will injure – and sometimes lose – a front tooth at some stage.
With numbers of contact sport participants on the increase – a contact sport being one that involves significant physical contact between opposing players – traumatic accidents resulting in dental injuries are also on the rise.
This risk of tooth damage is also increased in physical sports where speed or moving objects – such as bats and balls – are involved.
The British Orthodontic Society (BOS) says that mouthguards are just as important for players who wear braces ‘to avoid a laceration to the mouth from the brace; to avoid damage to the brace; and to prevent injury to the teeth’.
Some dental insurance plans refuse to pay out if damage to teeth occurs during a contact sport and a mouthguard was not worn to mitigate the risk.
Many contact sport official bodies recommend the wearing of mouthguards.
On the England hockey website – www.englandhockey.co.uk – it’s noted that the sport’s rules ‘clearly state that field players are recommended to wear mouth, shin and ankle protection.
‘England hockey stresses that this recommendation cannot be emphasised enough and we confirm that it should apply not only when participating in competition, but also to training games and any warm-up where a hockey ball/s are being used.’
And rugby union rules dictate that ‘all players on the rugby field must have a mouthguard… It is an essential part of the safety equipment needed to play for rugby. The guard protects the teeth, the gums and it also prevents a player from biting their tongue.’
Iain Hathorn, Chairman of the British Orthodontic Society said: ‘My experience in dealing with rugby players in the Premiership is that the sooner mouthguards are worn the more likely they will be worn in a playing lifetime.’