Mouthguards do more than protect an athlete’s teeth during the heat of competition. They also may improve performance and guard against other injuries, according to the AGD. For example, clenching a mouthguard while heading a soccer ball activates the neck and jaw muscles and may protect against concussion. It also repositions the jaw to activate the head and neck muscles, which may help weightlifters feel stronger and less encumbered. And, it modifies the airway opening to make breathing more efficient during physical activity.
Not all athletes take advantage of these benefits, though. The AGD reports that 56% of the 503 middle- and high-school athletes surveyed in Houston in a recent study did not own a mouthguard. Most commonly, the students said they didn’t wear one because they forgot to or because the mouthguard wasn’t comfortable. The AGD urges members of the dental profession to encourage enforcement of mouthguard usage policies among student-athletes.
The study, “Mouthguard Usage by Middle and High School Student-Athletes in Houston, Texas,” was published by General Dentistry.