April is National Facial Protection Month, but the face isn’t the only thing that is kept safer when people wear protection – some protective measures help prevent brain injuries, too.

Recently, dentists and other medical researchers found that wearing a mouth guard can reduce the likelihood of sustaining a concussion.

Although often categorized as “mild,” concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a blow, jolt or bump to the head. Concussions can happen as a result of a fall or accident, or from contact sports.

Concussions can occur when the body takes a hit, because the brain takes a hit, too. When hit, the brain moves around inside the skull, which can lead to damaged brain cells and chemical changes in the brain.

A 2018 study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center revealed that between 1.7 million and 3 million sports-related and recreation-related concussion events happen each year. The study also found that nearly 300,000 of these incidents occur during football games or football practice.

Statistics also show that 20 percent of high school athletes involved in contact sports such as soccer, hockey, lacrosse and basketball experience concussions each year.

So, how can mouth guards reduce the risk of sustaining a concussion?

They reduce the risk of a head injury by stabilizing the neck muscles, which help to absorb impact and shock to the head.

Will any mouth guard do? While researchers have shown that over-the-counter mouth guards do show some benefits when it comes to reducing the risk of concussion, the Academy of General Dentistry suggests that using a custom-fit mouth guard has a more significant benefit in reducing brain trauma — by nearly 50 percent.

AGD researchers tested the benefit of custom-fit mouth guards over store-bought mouth guards for reducing concussions with a high school football team. Half the team was given a custom mouth guard, and the other half wore over-the-counter mouth guards.

Just over 8 percent of those wearing over-the-counter guards experienced concussions, while only 3.6 percent of those fitted with custom guards experienced concussions.

“Wearing a mouth guard is important not only to lessen the risk of a tooth being knocked out, but also to protect the teeth, soft tissues of the mouth and the temporomandibular joints,” said Dr. Ettienne van Zyl, a Rogers, Arkansas, dentist.

If the joints of the jaw are impacted, jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, can develop.

“Reducing the risk of injury can help reduce a lifetime of jaw problems,” van Zyl said.


Source: Dentistry Today. Dentistry Can Play Its Part in Preventing Concussions. 20 September 2019.