Sports related accidents are the second most common cause of facial injuries during childhood. These injuries deserve special attention because they affect an area of the body that is critical to breathing, eating, speaking and seeing. Fractures of the facial bones, jaws and teeth can lead to functional and cosmetic problems for the injured athlete.
Treatment of facial injuries requires highly specialized care in a timely fashion and serious injuries may require significant surgical repair with hospitalization.
“Prevention of sports facial trauma is obviously the best policy. The use of sport appropriate mouth guards, helmets and facemasks are the most effective measures we can take for the protection of our athletes’ face, teeth and jaws,” says Scott Searcey, M.D., surgeon, and chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center and NBA Thunder medical team member.
“As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon I am often called upon to treat sports related facial injuries. Unfortunately, many of these injuries could have been prevented with the proper use of sport appropriate facial protective equipment and mouth guards,” says Searcey.
New technology and innovations in protective sports equipment have made these devices comfortable to wear and extremely effective at protecting the maxillofacial region without sacrificing athletic performance.
A properly fitted mouth guard is one of the most important pieces of equipment to protect the teeth and jaw region. New synthetic materials and designs have resulted in mouth guards that are lightweight, strong and comfortable, and allow ease of breathing.
They can vary from the inexpensive “boil and bite” models to custom fabricated sport specific guards made by dentists. The custom guards provide exceptional fit and comfort with excellent protection. Mouth protectors should provide good retention, comfort, ability to speak and breathe, tear resistance and protection of the teeth, lips and gums.
There are five criteria to consider when being fitted for a mouth guard. The device should be:
- Fitted so that it does not misalign the jaw and throw off the bite
- Easy to clean
- Provide coverage for the upper and/or lower teeth and gums.
By encouraging athletes of all levels to wear proper protective equipment and mouth guards, oral surgeons and dentists hope to change the “face” of preventable sports facial injuries.