When your child participates in contact sports, a mouthguard’s a worthwhile investment to help protect their teeth, mouth, jaw and head.
Sporting accidents are one of the most common causes of dental injuries – making a properly fitted mouthguard not just desirable, but a necessary addition to many training kits. Here’s how to encourage your child to wear their mouthguard every time their team plays.
Only 36 per cent of children aged five to 17 years wear a mouthguard during sporting activities : if more followed their lead, there’d almost certainly be far fewer sporting-related dental injuries. "One of the most common afflictions children encounter when playing contact sports is dental in nature," says dentist Dr Andrew Cole.
According to the Sports Medicine Association of Australia, 50 per cent of all sporting injuries experienced by kids between six to 17 involve their teeth – but wearing a mouthguard helps dramatically lessen that chance of injury, says Dr Cole. "The protection that wearing a mouthguard affords doesn’t just include teeth,” he says. “Mouthguards also help reduce the impact of head-knocks or concussion by acting as a shock-absorber. Studies indicate that wearing a dentist-certified mouthguard decreases the risk of head trauma by 50 per cent. To minimise the risk of your child experiencing the most popular sporting injury, equipping them with a dentist-approved mouthguard is the safest and most suitable method."
"Children and teens are infamous for avoiding protective gear: whether it’s because it doesn’t look ‘cool’ or is merely annoying, they have their reasons to put up a good, hormonally-charged fight to avoid what you know is best for them," says Dr Cole. He suggests trying these strategies to encourage your child to build a healthy relationship with their mouthguard:
1. Personalise: Dentists can offer coloured or even multi-coloured mouthguards. Let the child style it to the colour of their club or favourite team. Giving them the choice is a great way to make them feel empowered.
2. Educate: It’s best to expose your kids, albeit sensitively, to the importance of wearing a mouthguard. Explain what can happen if a mouthguard is not worn: a judicious search on Google or YouTube may help.
3. Inspire: Professionals wear mouthguards for a reason: highlight examples of elite players in your child’s chosen sport who wear mouthguards.
4. Reward: Encouraging safe practice when playing sport is honourable as well as smart. Giving your child a treat for wearing a mouthguard encourages them to continue to do so.
5. Amuse: Mouthguards with built-in bubble-gum flavours are now available. The taste may encourage your child to forget they're wearing it.
"Dentists are constantly developing new innovations in material and shape to improve the quality mouthguards can provide," Dr Cole says. "This is to help reduce risk and optimise protection. If you need more information, contact your local dental practice."