Delta Dental News Room


Study Finds Too Few Kids Wearing Mouthguards

Delta Dental reminds parents that children should wear protective gear that guards against mouth injuries in games and practices


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Oak Brook, Ill. (July 23, 2011) - Most American children don't wear mouthguards while playing sports that pose a risk of injury to the mouth, contrary to recommendations made by dental professionals.

That's one of the key findings from a survey1 of American children's oral health, conducted on behalf of Delta Dental Plans Association, the nation's leading dental benefits provider.

"Studies show that young athletes who wear mouthguards suffer significantly fewer mouth injuries than those who don't," said Dr. William Kohn, DDS, vice president of dental science and policy for Delta Dental Plans Association.

Although mouthguards are only mandatory for some youth sports, such as ice hockey, football and lacrosse, dental professionals recommend they be worn for all athletic activities where there is a strong potential for contact with other participants or hard surfaces.

But nearly seven out of 10 Americans (68 percent) report that their child does not wear a mouthguard at soccer, basketball, baseball and softball practices or games. And studies show that today's basketball players are actually far more likely than football players to sustain an orofacial injury.2

Mouth injuries in football have dropped dramatically since mouthguards became mandatory. More Americans report that their child wears a mouthguard for football than for any other sport. However, even in football - a sport requiring protective gear - only seven out of 10 caregivers (70 percent) report that their child wears a mouthguard at both practice and games.

Only about four in 10 (44 percent) say that their child wears a mouthguard for hockey practice and games, which is also mandatory. Even more alarming is the finding that only about two out of 10 children (22 percent) only wear a mouthguard at games, not practice. And according to Safe Kids USA, most organized sports-related injuries occur during practice rather than games.3

"Parents need to encourage their young athletes to get in the habit of wearing mouthguards whenever they participate in sports, whether it's for practice or a game," said Dr. Kohn.

There are three types of mouthguards currently available:

Still, if cost is a consideration, any mouthguard is better than none at all. In addition to mouthguards, make sure your young athlete wears the right protective equipment for their activity (such as helmets, padding, shin guards, and eye protection). Equipment should fit properly and be worn consistently and correctly.

One final note regarding mouthguards and concussions: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 300,000 people get sports-related concussions each year, with children and teens at the highest risk. Although we do know that mouthguards decrease the risk of mouth and teeth injury, their protective effects on concussions are less clear.

The not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association ( based in Oak Brook, Ill., is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations specializing in providing dental benefits programs to more than 56 million Americans in more than 95,000 employee groups throughout the country.

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1Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is +/-3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

2Academy of General Dentistry, "Mouthguards Fight 'Weekend Warrior' Syndrome", February 2007.

3Safe Kids USA, "Sports and Recreation Safety Fact Sheet"