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With Fall Sports Seasons in Flux, Mouth Safety Remains Concern for Young Athletes

September 23, 2020 – There is much uncertainty and inconsistency when it comes to youth and school sports this fall. Will they play? If so, can there be close or direct contact? If inter-team play is not allowed, can they practice or work out as a team?

Youth athlete wearing a mouthguardOne thing is certain—athlete health and safety is at the forefront of all decisions regarding fall and even winter and spring sports this school year. And whether lacrosse teams are reduced to scrimmages among their own teammates or soccer and football players are allowed full contact against their opponents, the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) reminds parents, coaches, and athletic directors that mouthguards should be considered as vital as masks, helmets, and shoulder pads.

An athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouthguard, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of Oral Health. Yet, the regulatory body has reported that about half of Massachusetts middle school students do not wear a mouthguard when playing team sports.


“We’re all aware of the risks of not wearing a mask in public these days, but it is still commonplace to see young athletes putting their mouths, teeth, gums, and lips at risk for serious injury,” MDS President Dr. MaryJane Hanlon said. “This includes athletes who participate in sports not typically thought of as 'full contact'—such as cheerleading, cross country, and volleyball—because any fall can result in damage to the mouth area.”

Sports injuries involving the mouth can have far-reaching consequences. In addition to any pain and expense in the immediate treatment of a knocked-out tooth or other mouth injury, patients may encounter significant expense with follow-up care—many times greater than the price of a mouthguard—and missed school days.

There are three types of mouthguards available: the custom-made mouthguard, the boil-and-bite mouthguard, and the stock mouthguard that one can buy in a sporting goods store. Dentists usually recommend that athletes wear custom-made mouthguards. Custom-made mouthguards are made in two layers: one colored, then one clear. During the creation process, an athlete’s name can be embedded into the mouthguard to ensure ownership and eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination.

To learn more about the types of mouthguards available, guidelines for orthodontic patients, and tips for handling mouthguards, visit massdental.org/mouthguards and download the educational Grin and Wear It® poster and brochure.