Dental Injuries and Sports-Related Mouth Protection

Most parents will agree that there are multiple benefits to having their children participate in sports, despite the risk of dental injuries and the need for sports-related mouth protection. Developing social and motor skills, promoting regular exercise disguised as fun, and even teaching some essential life skills like time management are just a few of the great benefits of athletic participation. As the parent, though, you are also tasked with more than just chauffeuring MVPs to practice and keeping water bottles full- you are their first line of defense against oral injuries. 

Your child’s dental health is a significant concern when the possibility of a ball or body part to the mouth increases with sports. Whether your child has metal braces, a retainer, or clear aligners like Invisalign, their mouth needs to be adequately protected to avoid painful injuries and permanent mouth damage.

Dr. Robert Selden and his experienced team at Selden Orthodontics have seen it all when it comes to split lips and broken appliances from sports-related injuries. We believe that avoiding tooth and mouth injuries in children while playing sports can be as simple as using protective gear like a mouthguard.

Sports and Dental Injuries

Sports-related dental injuries account for 40% of all dental injuries in the United States. You may think high-speed sports that involve a lot of contact and collision are the only concern for mouth injuries, but accidents happen all the time. A fall in a solo sport like skateboarding can result in a chipped tooth or broken bracket.

Selden Orthodontics patients can still play sports like usual during treatment but if you have an accident during your athletic activity, check your appliances and mouth immediately. If the instruments appear damaged or the teeth loosened, schedule an appointment for repair as soon as possible.

When we evaluate and treat dental injuries, a quick assessment and early treatment is our primary goal. The most common injuries we see are tooth fractures, commonly referred to as a ‘chipped tooth,’ and soft tissue lacerations or cuts on your gums, tongue, or cheeks. These typically occur as a result of direct impact to the area. While inspecting for these types of injuries, we also check the motion of your jaw to address any jaw dislocation. 

Some patients may experience a more profound oral injury, such as luxation. A tooth may become displaced but still in the socket or even an avulsion in which the tooth becomes wholly dislocated. 

Sports-Related Mouth Protection

According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Orthodontists, 99% of parents with children playing organized sports feel mouthguards should be required to play. However, almost 40% of those parents said their children never wear one for practice or games. 

Getting a kid to wear a mouthguard may seem as difficult as getting them to eat green vegetables. Still, it is one of the most inexpensive ways to protect your child’s teeth, tongue, gums, and cheeks from trauma during their extra-curricular activities. 

Orofacial and dental injuries are a risk for participants of all ages, genders, and skill levels during organized and unorganized sports at both recreational and competitive levels. While most dental injuries are sustained during collision and contact sports, they are also prevalent in limited-contact, non-contact, and high-velocity activities.

Currently, the American Dental Association recommends the use of a properly fitting mouthguard in the following activities:

Dental Injuries and Sports-Related Mouth ProtectionContact/Collision Sports



Combat Sports



Hockey (Ice and Field)


Martial Arts



Water Polo


Limited Contact and Other Sports




Equestrian Events

Field Events


Inline Skating











Choosing and Caring for your Mouthguards

As with any other decision you face to keep your kids safe, mouthguards come in many different options, but according to the ADA Council of Scientific Affairs and Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, an ideal mouthguard should:

  • Be adequately fitted to the wearer’s mouth and accurately adapted to their oral structures
  • Be made of resilient material approved by the FDA and cover all remaining teeth on one arch
  • Stay in place comfortably and securely
  • Be physiologically compatible with the wearer
  • Be relatively easy to clean
  • Have high-impact energy absorption to reduce or limit transmitted forces upon impact

If you are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, consult with your orthodontist to ensure the mouthguard will fit over your appliances and not damage the device or harm your mouth if an impact occurs. 

You will know you have a good fit if it is comfortable, offers adequate coverage, and doesn’t interfere with speaking or breathing. The three most common types of mouthguards are stock or pre-made, “Boil and Bite,” and custom-made. Take a look at the uses and differences below.

Pre-Made Mouthguards

The pre-made option is the most common mouthguard due to availability since it’s what you are likely to find in a sporting goods store. These mouthguards come in various sizes and colors to suit as many wearers as possible. The stock mouthguard is considered the least effective option because it has a generic design that is not adapted to any particular mouth giving an improper fit and requires the mouth to be shut to keep it in place. 

“Boil-and-Bite” Mouthguards

Mouth-formed mouthguards are commonly referred to as “boil-and-bite” because they are designed to be warmed in water briefly to become permeable and then cooled slightly to be placed in the mouth and bitten down onto creating a customized fitting. These can also typically be found in sporting goods stores or ordered online. A dental professional may help facilitate the proper forming around dental appliances in some cases. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions precisely to ensure adequate heating and molding of the thermoplastic material, and avoid improper shaping creating a poorly fitted device with diminished protection.

Custom-made Mouthguards

Custom mouthguards are fabricated in a dental office or lab from individual patient impressions using thermoforming techniques to be fully customized and provide wearers with the best fit to adapt to their mouth while still being the most effective. While this is often the most expensive option for oral protection, the balanced occlusion and maximized tooth contact significantly reduce the risk of the mouthguard becoming displaced during high-impact activity.  

Dental Injuries and Sports-Related Mouth ProtectionTeam up with Selden Orthodontics to protect your child’s smile!

At Selden Orthodontics, we’re passionate about providing simply spectacular smiles to patients in all sports and activities in the Huntersville and Charlotte, NC, areas. While you’re in for your consultation or check-up, let us know about the sports your child is playing, and we can get you the information to help you pick the mouthguard that will fit your child’s mouth and needs best. 

Dr. Selden and his friendly team are standing by with the education and experience you need to reach the smile of your dreams without giving up the sport you love. Schedule a FREE consultation today to get your custom mouth protection for prolonged oral health!