Study says custom-made mouthguards reduce athletes' risk of concussion

May 1, 2014

When it comes to buying a mouthguard, parents who want to reduce their child's risk of a sports-related concussion should visit a dentist instead of a sporting goods store.

High school football players wearing store-bought, over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injures (MTBI)/concussions than those wearing custom-made, properly fitted mouthguards, reports a new study in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

"Researchers and, most importantly, parents, are looking for ways to better protect children against concussions," said lead author Jackson Winters, DDS, a who also served as a and collegiate football official for 28 years. "Consumers may believe that today's advanced helmet design provides sufficient protection, but our research indicates that, when compared to over-the-counter versions, a custom-made, properly fitted mouthguard also is essential to player safety."

The study followed 412 players from six teams. Three teams (220 athletes) were randomly assigned to wear custom-made mouthguards, and three teams (192 athletes) wore standard OTC mouthguards of their own choosing. All players wore the same style of football helmet.

According to the study, 8.3 percent of athletes in the OTC mouthguard group suffered MTBI/concussion injuries. For those with custom-made mouthguards, however, the rate was only 3.6 percent.

Many variables contribute to MTBI/concussion injuries, and mouthguards—whose primary function is protecting the teeth—cannot completely prevent them from occurring. Previous studies have theorized that mouthguards can reduce concussion risk, however, because they help absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw.

Mouthguard thickness also has been shown to be a factor that contributes to the level of protection. The average thickness of the custom-made mouthguards in this study was 3.50 millimeters, while the average thickness of the OTC mouthguards was only 1.65 millimeters.

"Although more research on this topic is needed, our study shows the value of a custom-made mouthguard," Dr. Winters said. "The benefits of protecting your child far outweigh the costs associated with a dental or medical injury, which is likelier to occur with a store-bought model."

Custom-made mouthguards also can last longer than store-bought models and may be less prone to damage by the athletes, said AGD Spokesperson Eugene Antenucci, DDS, FAGD. "Over-the-counter mouthguards are not fitted to the athlete's mouth, making them less comfortable than custom guards made by a dentist," said Dr. Antenucci. "When a mouthguard is not comfortable, the athlete is likely to chew it, reducing its thickness and resulting in less protection."

Dr. Antenucci offers the following tips for caring for a custom-made mouthguard:

  1. After each use, brush your mouthguard with a toothbrush and cool (not hot) water.
  2. Keep your mouthguard in a well-ventilated, plastic storage box when not in use. Your dentist will provide you with a case for your mouthguard.
  3. Heat is bad for a mouthguard, so don't leave it in direct sunlight or in a hot car. The heat can melt the mouthguard, altering the way it fits in your mouth and resulting in less protection.
  4. When you see your dentist twice a year for your regular cleanings, bring your mouthguard with you. Your dentist can give your mouthguard a thorough cleaning and check its structure and fit.
  5. Call your dentist if you have any concerns about your mouthguard.

To get custom-made mouthguard for your child, talk to your general .

Explore further: Can the 'right' helmet prevent concussions?

Related Stories

Can the 'right' helmet prevent concussions?

October 28, 2013
While many football helmet and mouth guard manufacturers claim that their equipment will lessen impact forces and reduce concussion risk, neither a specific brand nor a higher cost were associated with fewer concussions in ...

New mouthpiece found to reduce stress levels after strenuous exercise

April 25, 2012
Mouthguards are used by almost everyone participating in sports. These devices, typically purchased over-the-counter and used on the upper teeth, are designed to protect against broken teeth and an injured tongue. Recently, ...

No link found between playing football in hot weather, concussion risk

April 28, 2014
(HealthDay)—Dehydration may increase football players' risk for concussion, but it's unclear if playing in hot weather does, a new study finds.

More high school athletes complying with concussion guidelines, study finds

April 10, 2014
(HealthDay)—High school athletes who suffer from concussions are complying more with the recommended return-to-play guidelines, according to new research.

Type of helmet, may not lower concussion risk

July 13, 2013
40,000 high school football kids get a concussion every year, but contrary to equipment manufacturers' claims, the specific brand of helmet and helmet age were not associated with lower risk of concussion, say researchers ...

Recommended for you

Understanding genetic synergy in cleft palate

July 19, 2017
Like all of the individual elements of fetal development, palate growth is a marvel of nature. In part of this process, ledges of tissue on the sides of the face grow downwards on each side of the tongue, then upward, fusing ...

Use of prefabricated blood vessels may revolutionize root canals

June 12, 2017
While root canals are effective in saving a tooth that has become infected or decayed, this age-old procedure may cause teeth to become brittle and susceptible to fracture over time. Now researchers at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, ...

Recreational cannabis, used often, increases risk of gum disease

May 24, 2017
Columbia University dental researchers have found that frequent recreational use of cannabis—including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil—increases the risk of gum disease.

Grape seed extract could extend life of resin fillings

May 9, 2017
A natural compound found in grape seed extract could be used to strengthen dentin—the tissue beneath a tooth's enamel—and increase the life of resin fillings, according to new research at the University of Illinois at ...

Crooked bite may indicate early life stress

April 13, 2017
Research has repeatedly confirmed that the first 1,000 days after conception strongly influence a person's life expectancy and susceptibility to chronic diseases. The primary marker used to identify early life stress is low ...

New study identifies successful method to reduce dental implant failure

March 24, 2017
According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), 15 million Americans have crown or bridge replacements and three million have dental implants—with this latter number rising by 500,000 a year. The AAID estimates ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.