Healthy Kids     Early Education     K-12     After School     Enrichment Guide    

Be your child's mouth guard

Protecting your child's teeth during sports

A survey completed by the American Association of Orthodontics found that 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports.

With the start of any sports season, we are always reminded of sports safety, such as wearing helmets, kneepads, and chest guards, but we should not forget about the importance of protecting the mouth and teeth.

How many times have you cringed (crinkled your nose) when your child is hit in the face and they walk off the field with their hand covering their mouth? You think, “Oh dear, I hope their teeth are OK?!” Well you are right to think this because according to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation dental injuries are the most common type of orofacial injury sustained in sports.

The majority of these injuries are preventable with the use of a mouth guard.  In fact, an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain a dental injury when not wearing a mouth guard. So, why is it that a survey completed by the American Association of Orthodontics found that 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports?  Typically, the reason is that it is not required for many sports or due to a common misconception: mouth guards are very expensive.  There are many types of mouth guards so cost can vary (between $20 to $500). However, the cost of treatment of a fractured tooth or other dental trauma is far greater (between $500 to $5,000 or more).

The most effective mouth guard to buy is a custom fabricated piece created by a dental professional because it fits well, covers the teeth and gums, resists tearing and allows for normal speech and breathing. These types of mouth guards are best used when the child has all their permanent teeth.  When a child is in the mixed dentition (both primary and permanent teeth present), a mouth formed (boil and bite) guard is great alternative, which can be purchased at any sporting goods store. Stock mouth guards, or guards that are just purchased and placed in the mouth with no fitting or molding, are the least effective, least retentive, and often bulky which makes them uncomfortable and less likely to be worn.

The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouth guards for the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling. Mouth guards should be worn at all times during competition; in practice, as well as in games.

Contact your dentist for more information on mouth guards and advice on which one may be best for your child.

Protecting your child’s teeth during the sports season does not mean just from trauma, but from decay as well.  Careful consideration should be given to the type of beverage that is used to hydrate your child during sporting events.

Before we begin to decide what drink is appropriate for your child, you must first understand the difference between sports and energy drinks. Sports drinks have a very specific role. They serve as a fluid and electrolyte replacement that is lost in sweat during vigorous physical activity because they contain carbohydrates, minerals, and electrolytes. Energy drinks on the other hand often contain “stimulants” (e.g. caffeine, guarana) with various amounts of carbohydrates, protein, amino acids, sodium, and other minerals. According to the American Journal of Pediatrics, stimulants have no place in the diet of a child or adolescent, thus energy drinks are completely unnecessary for any child or adolescent to consume.       

Although some pediatric athletes can benefit from drinking sports drinks during very intense vigorous exercise; most do not need it for routine or daily physical activity. Water is the best fluid replacement for children during most sporting events or physical activities. When sports drinks are consumed unnecessarily, they increase risk of teeth decay, weight gain, and obesity.

How do sports drinks increase risk for decay you ask? The decay process occurs from bacteria breaking down carbohydrates and sugars into acid.  It is the acid that destroys the enamel of teeth.  A study in the Journal of General Dentistry, found that energy and sports drinks are so acidic (or have such a LOW pH) that they start destroying teeth after only five days of consistent use. Sports drinks are similar in this respect to sodas!   

So, the next time your child asks for a drink on the field or in the gym, give them a nice big bottle of water!

Jennifer Blair, DMD, is a pediatric dentist at Valley PediatricDentistry, P.C., which has offices in and Hopewell Junction and Jefferson Valley.  Contact her at or by calling her office at 845-226-8577.