Sports goggles and mouthguards offer important protection for your active child
If your child is involved in sports, chances are you’ve purchased and replaced uniforms, gear, and required protective equipment each year. We want our kiddos to be safe when they are out there having fun and enjoying their favorite sport. When you are out shopping, consider including sports goggles and mouthguards to your shopping list of protective equipment. While not required for some sports, sports goggles and mouthguards offer essential protection that could save your child from painful injuries and ongoing treatment.
“Orofacial injuries (mouth, eye, face) are very painful, and many are preventable,” said Dr. Jeff Chaffin, chief dental officer, Delta Dental of Iowa. “While young athletes might think that sports goggles and mouthguards are uncomfortable or uncool, that slight discomfort is nothing compared to the pain and often long-term damage or recovery from these types of injuries.”
It is estimated that up to 39% of all dental injuries are sports-related. Different sports have different rules regarding the wearing of mouthguards. However, both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommend mouth guards for most or all sports.
Wearing protective eyewear could prevent up to 90% of the 30,000 sports-related eye injuries treated in emergency departments each year. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend sports goggles in those sports posing a risk of eye injury.
Let’s examine the reasons behind why these organizations recommend these two pieces of protective equipment. First, let’s take a look at sports goggles.
More and more collegiate and pro athletes are turning to customized sports goggles to protect their eyes and to optimize their vision during competition. In 2018, more than 28,000 experienced eye injuries during sports activities according to Prevent Blindness America. One in four children under 18 use glasses or contacts, so your child will likely not be the only one on the team considering the use of sports goggles for competition.
It’s important to research the right kind of eye protection for your child’s eyes whether they wear corrective lenses or not. Find out what the requirements or recommendations are for the sports in which your child participates. For some sports, such as racket sports, baseball, basketball soccer and lacrosse, the sports goggles worn must meet certain American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International standards. The next step is to talk to your optometrist, then researching the options. It is recommended to shop at an optical store. The optical staff can help you select the right sports goggles based on your sports activities and help properly fit the eye protection for your child.
If your sports-loving child is currently wearing glasses for vision correction, but isn’t interested in sports goggles, contact lenses may be an option. Talk to your vision care provider to find out more. Turning our attention from the eyes, next let’s talk about the protection of the mouth, teeth, and jaw.
Mouthguards are required in several sports and, in some cases, have become a unique and customizable part of the uniform. However, a mouthguard can only protect your child if it is properly fitted and worn regularly. Making sure the mouthguard fits and is actually worn 100% of the time is important when you consider the frequency and impact of a dental-related injury:
- In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 600,000 sports-related emergency room visits per year are due to dental injuries – that’s 1,643 per day – across the United States.
- The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that mouthguards (when fitted and worn properly) prevent more than 200,000 injuries per year or 547 per day.
- An athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard according to the American Dental Association.
- The lifetime cost of teeth knocked out can range from $5,000 to $20,000 per tooth.
There are three types of mouthguards to consider. Before you start picking out colors, the best first step is to talk to your dentist. Your dentist will help you decide the right type of mouthguard based on your child’s age, activity, and budget. There are three general options for mouthguards:
- Custom-made ($$$): This type is made by your dentist specifically for you. A custom-made mouthguard is more expensive than the other versions because they are individually created for fit and comfort.
- Boil and bite ($$): These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods stores and drugstores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in water (boiled), then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Stock ($): These are inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don’t fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
Mouthguard care and replacement
Talk to your dentist about when it’s the right time to replace your mouthguard. If it shows signs of wear, is damaged or is ill-fitting, replace it immediately. Teens and children may need to replace their mouthguards more often because their mouths are still growing and changing.
Between uses, it’s important to keep your mouthguard clean and dry. Here are some tips for making sure your mouthguard is always ready to go:
- Rinse before and after each use or brush with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Regularly clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water. Then, rinse it thoroughly.
- During your regular dental checkups, bring your mouthguard for an evaluation.
- Store and transport the mouthguard in a sturdy container that has vents so it can dry and keep bacteria from growing.
- Never leave the mouthguard in the sun or hot water.
- Some mouthguards have fallen victim to family pets, who see them as chew toys. Store your mouthguard and case somewhere your pet cannot get to it.
Keep your child in the action
While not always on the required lists of sports equipment, sports goggles and mouthguards are protection recommended by a variety of medical and health-based organizations. Orofacial injuries (eyes, mouth, teeth, jaw) can be painful, time-consuming and many times, preventable. For more information, talk to your dentist, optometrist, or pediatrician.