Educate Parents About the Importance of Dental Protection

Robert Brody, DMD


As summer progresses and school sport practices begin, children will be spending more time outside and playing with friends. While enjoyable for the children, these pastimes can have unintended consequences including potential harm to their teeth when left unprotected. That is why it is critical that we as dental professionals ensure parents are educated about the importance of dental protection.

Dental injuries are some of the most preventable injuries. However, more than 5 million teeth are injured, fractured, or knocked out through a variety of different activities each year. The result is nearly $500 million spent annually on replacing teeth.

Nearly 50% of all children and teens will suffer at least one traumatic injury to a tooth by the time they graduate high school, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation says that athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth. 

According to the ADA, more than 200,000 oral injuries are prevented each year simply by wearing a mouth guard. The ADA recommends wearing mouth guards during all practices and competitions for the following sports:

  • Acrobatics
  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Field hockey
  • Football
  • Gymnastics
  • Handball
  • Ice hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial arts
  • Racquetball
  • Roller hockey
  • Rugby
  • Shot putting
  • Skateboarding
  • Skiing
  • Skydiving
  • Soccer
  • Squash
  • Surfing
  • Volleyball
  • Water polo
  • Weightlifting
  • Wrestling 

Although it seems like an easy solution, a study by the American Association of Orthodontists found that 84% of children playing in organized sports do not wear mouth guards because they are not required. Children choose not to wear mouth guards because they are uncomfortable, move around while playing, and can make it hard to breathe or speak normally.

While reluctance to use a mouth guard is understandable, these reasons can be addressed and fixed with a properly fitted mouth guard. Thus, we need to educate our patients and families about the benefits of wearing a mouth guard during organized sports and about the different types of mouth guards available.

Custom-made mouth guards provided by a dentist are best. The exact fit of these mouth guards diminishes the amount of discomfort and risk of falling out during use. Retail mouth guards, while better than nothing, leave room for error and may not protect teeth as effectively as a custom appliance. Spend time working with your patients and families to determine which option is best.

Every summer, I see an increase in dental injuries in patients with braces. Brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances are more easily damaged than teeth. A mouth guard not only provides a barrier between the braces and cheek or lips, it also prevents costly repairs to a broken bracket—something many parents don’t consider before sending their child out to practice or compete.

In addition to mouth guards, children should wear helmets to protect their mouth. Dental injuries can happen during any fall or contact with body parts or objects, making it vital to wear different types of protection during various activities, including riding a bicycle. In fact, according to The American Journal of Surgery, helmet use while riding a bicycle can reduce the odds of facial fractures by 31%

Different types of helmets are available for a wide range of activities and sports. For extra protection, promote the use of a face mask on helmets during these activities. Provide educational materials for your patients and families that include why face masks are important and where they can be purchased. The easier we make resources available, the less likely we are to face patients who are not properly protecting their teeth and face.

Encourage dental protection by creating educational pieces that patients and families can use to make informed decisions about dental protection throughout the year. Consider offering a discount on mouth guards or inviting a specialist to properly fit helmets for patients during their dental visit, making it easier on families to secure the gear they need.

As dental professionals, it’s our job to ensure patients and parents have all the tools they need to prevent dental injuries. As always, things can happen. But the more we prepare and educate our patients, the more protected their teeth will be, resulting in both a happy patient and dentist!

Dr. Brody is the chief clinical officer of Great Expressions Dental Centers (GEDC). Previously, he was president of Dental Health Group, served as team dentist for the Miami Dolphins, and was on the Board of Trustees at Golden Glades Hospital. He began his career as a lab technician in Miami and then Philadelphia. He has a BS in biology from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned his dental medicine degree. He is currently the CCO of the GEDC National Doctor Panel and serves on Nova Southeastern Dental School’s Board of Councilors, as well as the Dean’s Advisory Council at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. He can be reached at

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