Sports Dentistry- What Is It?

December 20th, 2011
Sports Dentistry- What Is It?

Sports dentistry is a growing branch of dentistry that looks at how sports people can best help prevent injury to their teeth and oral cavity.

Over the years, contact sports such as boxing or rugby have often resulted in problems related to a competitors jaw and teeth which, with proper efficient products could have better protected the individual.

Sports dentistry is one of the fastest growing areas of dentistry along with cosmetic dentistry, particularly in the USA and Australia. A report published in 1990 in Australia and entitled “Sports injuries in Australia, Causes, Costs and Prevention” described the problem of sport injury. It seems at that time the cost to Australia was around Aus$1.4 billion each year in lost revenue as a result of sports injuries. Much of this will relate to facial and oral cavity injuries.

The aim of sports dentistry in general is to increase prevention and decrease the effects of any injury. But how best to do this?

The commonest preventative devices are mouth guards, but early mouth guards often caused more trouble than they helped. They were often ill fitting or made from material which was more cosmetic than protective.

However over time this particular device has been transformed to become one of the major protective devices for sports men and women.

But sports dentistry isn’t just about developing new protective gear. Rather, many sports are best served by teaching players alternative and safer ways to play their sport without the need to wear specialist devices in or around the mouth or jaw. For instance, in sports such as Rugby using different skills for tackling opponents can help. Further, ensuring that equipment used is properly maintained and in tip top condition. This will of course include equipment that is worn around the head.

What about so called non contact sports?

It is often assumed, wrongly, that a sport that is classified as non contact such as Skating, Gymnastics or Dance Sport would not have many facial injuries. However a bad fall can cause as much damage as being hit by an opponent. Consequently, dentists do recommend that participants even in these so called safer sports should still wear a mouth guard.

Mouth guards themselves come in 4 varieties: Stock, Boil and Bite, Vacuum Custom made and Pressure Laminated Custom made. The Stock mouth guard is as the name implies a stock item which can be bought from any sports shop. They are a generalised non fitted guard in 3 sizes – small, medium and large.

The Boil and Bite mouth guard can also be bought from a sports shop, and are made from thermoplastic, and although designed to cover the posterior teeth, in tests they often fail in this regard.

Sports dentists therefore recommend getting a customised mouth guard fitted; whether serious or not.

Sports dentistry in general is not something that well known in Britain – even at professional level. However this is now changing. For instance, a growing number of dentists (particularly those who also play sport) are beginning to see the benefits of offering a sports dentistry service to local clubs.

How long this takes to develop is anyone’s guess. However as with sports medical and sports psychology, sports dentistry will take root eventually.

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