If you’re the athletic type — or if your child plays sports — you probably know that wearing a mouthguard is a proven method of preventing dental injuries. Now, evidence is mounting that this essential piece of protective gear can also help prevent concussions — and the mouthguard that works best is the one that’s custom-made by your dentist.
A new study published in General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, followed 412 players from six high school football teams. Members of three teams were randomly assigned to wear custom-made mouthguards from a dentist’s office, while the other three teams used over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards. All players wore the same type of helmet. When the results were in, researchers found that 8.3 percent of the athletes in the OTC mouthguard group sustained mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) or concussions; by contrast, only 3.6 percent of those wearing custom-made mouthguards suffered the same injuries.
The study’s conclusion: Wearing a custom-made mouthguard cuts the rate of MTBI/concussion injuries by more than half! Dr. Jackson Winters, the study’s lead author, is a pediatric dentist as well as a former high school and collegiate sports official. “Consumers may believe that today’s advanced helmet design provides sufficient protection,” he said, “but our research indicates that, when compared to over-the-counter versions, a custom-made, properly fitted mouthguard also is essential to player safety.”
As parents, coaches and school administrators continue to search for better ways to protect athletes against concussions, this study suggests an avenue that’s well worth pursuing. If you want to find out more about custom-made mouthguards, just ask Dr. Greg Stearns.