Concussion prevention has been a major point of emphasis in all sports the last few years and recent research has shown that a custom made mouth guard can reduce the risk of sports-related concussions in athletes. According to the new study, high school football players who wear over-the-counter (OTC) mouth guards were over twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) or concussions than those who wear custom-made mouth guards. The results from this study were published in the May/ June 2014 issue of the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, General Dentistry.
“Researchers and, most importantly, parents, are looking for ways to better protect children against concussions,” according to lead author Jackson Winters, DDS, a pediatric dentist with 28 years of experience officiating high school and collegiate football. “Consumers may believe that today’s advanced helmet design provides sufficient protection, but our research indicates that, when compared to over-the-counter versions, a custom-made, properly fitted mouthguard also is essential to player safety.”
For this study, the researchers followed 412 football players from 6 different high school teams. Three of the teams, 220 athletes, wore custom-made mouth guards and the other three teams, 192 athletes, wore OTC mouth guards that they chose themselves. Every player on all six teams wore the same style helmet. The researchers found that 8.3 percent of the athletes wearing OTC mouth guards suffered MTBI or concussion injuries while only 3.6 percent of those wearing custom mouth guards suffered these injuries.
There are plenty of variables that contribute to MTBI and concussion injuries and mouth guards do not totally prevent concussions because their main purpose is to protect the teeth. However, researchers in previous studies believed that mouth guards can reduce the risk of concussion because they absorb shock, keep the head and neck stabilized, and limit the movement of the jaw in a direct hit. This study showed that mouth guard thickness also helps protect against concussions as the average thickness of the custom-made mouth guards was 3.5 millimeters compared to 1.65 millimeters for the OTC mouth guards. Custom-made mouth guards are also more durable and longer lasting than OTC mouth guards.
“Although more research on this topic is needed, our study shows the value of a custom-made mouth guard,” claims Dr. Winters.
“Over-the-counter mouthguards are not fitted to the athlete’s mouth, making them less comfortable than custom guards made by a dentist,” according to AGD spokesperson Eugene Antenucci, DDS, FAGD. “When a mouthguard is not comfortable, the athlete is likely to chew it, reducing its thickness and resulting in less protection.” A worn down mouthguard not only offers less protection against concussions, but it also offers less protection for your teeth. Make sure your teeth are properly protected and in good health at your routine dental check-up.