Research shows that less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity every day. This means only one out of three people engage in a workout or physical activity of any kind in a week. Similar reports also reveal that more than 80% of adults currently do not meet the muscle-strengthening guidelines.

Many people do not realize the benefits of a physically active lifestyle. Besides improving our fitness, a physically active lifestyle does wonders for our health. First off, it helps to reduce the risk of a heart attack. It also helps us manage our weight better, lowers blood pressure levels, and strengthens our bones.

While physical activity is good for our health, we place our lives at risk. For example, playing rugby or football puts players at risk of facial and dental injuries. Other sports with a high rate of dental and facial injuries include basketball, martial arts, hockey, and boxing.

Research shows that more than 5 million teeth are avulsed every year during various sports activities. In the same report, researchers reveal that 13 – 39% of all dental injuries are as a result of playing sports.

In another report, 50% of children playing sports could sustain dental injuries before they graduate from high school. A survey carried out at Florida High school revealed that 31% of high school basketball players sustained dental injuries.

The reason why basketball has the highest number of facial and dental injuries is because of elbow and hand contact. Other reasons are collisions between players, and the high speed of the game increases the risk of orofacial trauma.

Every sport has safety guidelines that every coach and player should follow. For example, basketball players must wear mouthguards to prevent dental injuries. According to research, only 7% wear mouthguards. Other sports where players must wear mouthguards include:

  • Field hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Football
  • Ice hockey

Proposed Ways of Minimizing Dental and Facial Injuries Among Athletes

A majority of dental professionals suggested ways for dentists to interact with players from the sports world. This is after finding out the rising and worrying cases of dental and facial trauma cases. By interacting with players, dentists can sensitize the athletes on preventative measures. Such measures include the use of mouthguards and helmets while on the field.

They should play an active role in educating athletes on how to use protective equipment to reduce facial and dental injuries. Besides teaching the public, dental specialists should custom make mouthguards.

By making custom made mouthguards, not only will they be promoting safety among athletes. But they will help lower the cost of mouthguards and treatment of dental and facial injuries.

Dentists should also educate and inform the youth in high school, college, and university. Teaching safety guidelines, specifically the use of mouthguards, will help students lower the risk of orofacial injuries.

Coaches and sports administrators should have a role to play. They should consult with dentists experienced in orofacial injuries. As such, they get to learn steps management must take to protect young athletes.

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Mouthguards: Types and Designs

A lot of experts have come forward with designs of mouthguards and other safety gadgets designed to protect athletes while in the field. One of those experts is Dr. Harold Gelb. He coined the word MORA which stands for mandibular orthopedic repositioning appliance. Also called the Gelb appliance, this is a full posterior device made with the forward on the eminentia and the condyle down.

Basically, it’s a flat plane splint designed with occlusal coverage for the posterior and designed to treat closed lock cases. Apart from the terms MORA or Gelb device, other words used to describe the device include:

  • TMJ splint
  • Acrylic splint
  • Bite plane
  • Interocclusal splint

According to Dr. Gelb, the device increases the strength of the athlete while on the field. In 1981, a researcher by the name Greenberg conducted an objective measurement study. What he found out was that the TMJ appliance or Gelb device increases strength on athletes.

Today, more athletes are finding their way into gyms and other training facilities. The sole purpose is to improve their strength, tone their muscles, or increase muscle mass. Due to their active style, there is a need for health professionals to serve them.

One-way health professionals can serve athletes is in oral care. Proper oral care can aid in preventing orofacial injuries among athletes who are at risk. The problem is, there is a need for further studies and research, especially to check the placebo effect.

Another safety device tested for varying thickness and stiffness had better energy absorption. The device made of ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer materials varied in stiffness and thickness. What the researchers concluded is that a mouthguard with a stiffer or thicker insert and can soften in the mouth is far more effective.

Other researchers studied the influence of occlusal supporting mouthguards. Mainly they wanted to know if it contributes to bone fractures and distortion. What they discovered is that wearing mouthguards with insufficient occlusion increases the risk of bone fractures. They concluded that mouthguards should have supportive occlusion.

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