Dentistry Can Play Its Part in Preventing Concussions

Bill Busch, DMD, MAGD


Concussions, mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), and the role they play in athletics is a hot topic within every community. From my own children to professional athletes, everyone is concerned with how we can prevent brain injuries in sports.  

As a dentist with my own private practice, as a dentist for the Kansas City Chiefs, and as a father of four, I am obviously interested in protecting a wide range of athletes, from the novice to the professional. A high-quality, custom mouthguard tailored to the athlete is my primary recommendation for preventing dental trauma and helping to reduce instances of brain injury.


Between 1.7 million and 3 million sports-related and recreation-related concussions happen each year, according to UPMC Sports Medicine. Approximately 300,000 of them are related to football. Also, two out of 10 high school athletes who play contact sports including soccer and lacrosse will suffer a concussion this year. 

As we know, researchers have already proved that most mouthguards can reduce concussion risk. They work to stabilize the muscles of the neck, reduce the impact shock to the head, and limit movement if there is a direct hit to the jaw. The thickness of a mouthguard also contributes to the level of protection.

The Academy of General Dentistry notes the benefits of a custom-made mouthguard versus store-bought models. Its study showed that custom mouthguards could reduce athletes’ risk of concussion by close to half. Working with a high school football team, with half wearing a custom mouthguard and half wearing store-bought pieces, the results were impressive. While 8.3% of athletes in the over-the-counter mouthguard group suffered mTBI/concussion injuries, only 3.6% of those with custom-made mouthguards suffered the same fate.  

Our practice, North Kansas City Dental, started creating custom mouthguards with the goal of cushioning the impact on teeth, especially in high-contact sports like football and lacrosse. I have also seen firsthand that they protect the athlete’s jaw joints and soft tissues from injury, especially in repeated-contact athletics. If correctly fitted and tailored, when worn and customized properly, a mouthguard can help prevent injuries to the athlete’s neck too, which provides some peace of mind for any athlete, parent, or fan.   

To incorporate custom-made mouthguards into your practice, I recommend working side by side with schools, coaches, and parent representatives. These individuals can speak to the ease of the process and give firsthand accounts of the protection benefits.

Organized leagues for soccer and baseball also are a great vehicle for promoting custom dental services. In some sports, especially baseball, the head is involved in injuries more than any other part of the body. Very few players understand the importance of wearing mouth protection. Similarly for females, the market is seemingly untapped beyond lacrosse and field hockey. For young female athletes, soccer is the leading cause of concussions, and very few wear mouthguards. The benefits to these groups highly outweigh the costs. 


However, it is essential to remember that any mouthguard, custom or not, plays a part in safety. 

Also, as many parents know, oral injuries don’t only happen on the field. One of the best ways for parents to prevent oral and brain injuries is education. Knowing how to protect your child’s mouth and what do to if your child has a mouth injury is an important step in the process.   

There is much more research to be done on how we can further prevent brain injuries and how dentists will be part of that equation. I look forward to being on the team to make my patients and community healthier and safer.   

Dr. Busch has been practicing dentistry and helping people in the Kansas City area for 30 years. He holds a DMD from the Fairleigh Dickinson University College of Dental Medicine and is a Master with the Academy of General Dentistry. Also, he was named one of America’s Top Dentists in 2009 and 2010. He has been the official team dentist of the Kansas City Chiefs since 2012. He is the cofounder of TeamSmile and the co-founder of TiScrubs. For more information, visit

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