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Mouth Guards as Important as Bike Helmets

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Mouth Guards as Important as Bike Helmets

Jul 11, 2017

Mouth guards protect kids' teeth and jaws even when they're not playing contact sports. Studies suggest a mouth guard can prevent more than half of the common dental injuries adolescents can suffer. According to pediatric dental specialist Dr. Hans Reinemer, custom-made mouth guards are a good investment toward your child's dental health. They can be comfortable—and even look cool.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Why you should consider a mouth guard for your child even if they play other sports other than hockey, that's next on The Scope.

Announcer: Health tips, medical news, research and more for a happier, healthier life from University of Utah Health Sciences. This is The Scope.

Interviewer: Dr. Hans Reinemer is the Section Head of Pediatric Dentistry at University of Utah School of Dentistry. When it comes to mouth guards, I think there's a perception out there that hockey players thereabout, maybe football players need it. But you contend that any active child should consider a mouth guard for a lot of really good reasons. Let's talk about that.

Dr. Reinemer: Sure. Football players, hockey players, any sport that involves contact, that's the perception most parents have is that we need to protect their teeth. That's absolutely the case. But we see in springtime and early summer, when kids are back outside, they tend to be back on their bikes, their skateboards, their rollerblades, just running down the street. They're young, growing kids. They tend to be a little uncoordinated at times, and they can certainly suffer similar dental injuries even though they're not playing contact sports.

Interviewer: So you recommend for those activities and those kids to wear a mouth guard, especially between, like, the ages of 5 and 7 when they tend to be a little bit more clumsy. Is that the age?

Dr. Reinemer: Sure, yeah, 5 to 7, even 7 to 11, statistics show that kids are most prone to dental injuries. They have newly erupted permanent teeth that tend to stick out a little bit. They're a little bit more prone to the actual injury themselves.

Interviewer: Really?

Dr. Reinemer: Absolutely. Anytime kids are jumping on the trampoline or doing any of those recreational activities that predispose them to bumping their face, their lips, their mouth, their teeth, a mouth guard certainly is appropriate. We recommend that our kids wear helmets, so why not protect their mouth and their teeth with a mouth guard?

Interviewer: Got you. For a parent that's going to try to convince their child that they need to do this, right, sometimes just like glasses or helmets, they're not cool. Tell parents how effective they are if something does happen. Do we have some research on that?

Dr. Reinemer: Well, in the case of contact sports, 60% of dental injuries can be eliminated with the use of a mouth guard. Statistically speaking, for a child on a rollerblade, for example, we don't have quite the similar stats, but certainly those injuries do occur. The challenge is getting a child to wear a mouth guard. There are a couple of things we can do. We can . . .

Interviewer: You've faced this question before.

Dr. Reinemer: Oh, absolutely. We can make it more comfortable, and we can make it look cool. There are ways to do that. You can buy a stock mouth guard at Dick's Sporting Goods, for example. They're gel fit or a boil to fit. Those work okay. They're not the most comfortable to wear.

The best option is to go to your dentist. Have them make a mold of your teeth and custom fit a mouth guard. It's going to be comfortable. You can talk with it. You can breathe better. It's not falling in and out of your mouth. And they can use all kinds of different designs and colors. If your child is engaged with the way it looks and the way it feels, they're more apt to wear it.

Interviewer: Yeah, they can make them kind of a little bit more cool.

Dr. Reinemer: It's customizing a mouth guard not unlike you customize an orthodontic retainer.

Interviewer: That's very cool. Also, mouth guards not only protect the teeth, they can protect children from concussion as well.

Dr. Reinemer: Absolutely. When you're hit in the jaw, for example, the force that's generated when your teeth are slammed together transmits up to your brain and your skull. By cushioning the blow of that impact, it reduces the incidence of concussion as well.

Interviewer: I feel like we've covered things pretty well. I think you've given us a pretty good picture of some of the activities that maybe traditionally we wouldn't think you'd wear a mouth guard for and the benefits of that. Is there anything that you would like to also add?

Dr. Reinemer: Well, just if your child is going to wear a mouth guard, great. If they're not and they do suffer a dental injury, again it's important to make sure that you have a good relationship with your dentist, somebody that you know and trust, that you can contact after hours or on the weekends. In the case that a dental emergency does occur, you have somebody to call, because time is of the essence when emergencies like this do occur.

Interviewer: About how much for one of those custom made mouth guards?

Dr. Reinemer: Oh, it varies. Typically they run along the same price as an orthodontic retainer. I think they can easily be done for less than $100. It's a little bit more than you're going to pay for a sporting goods store, but again your child is more apt to wear it, they offer better protection, and the investment pays.

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