Dental benefits

Your game plan for defeating sports-related problems

Nearly 60% of Americans ages 6 or older participate in outdoor sports,1 and that number is increasing.

If you or your children enjoy the benefits of sports, be mindful that they can also put your mouth and teeth in harm’s way. In fact, approximately a third of all sports injuries are to the face.2 With summer being a particularly popular time for outdoor sports, here’s what athletes can do to protect their smiles.


Be aware of common oral injuries.

The American Dental Association reports that 5 million Americans lose teeth to sports-related injuries every year. In addition to lost teeth, common injuries involve cracked teeth; fractures to roots, crowns, cheekbones and jaw bones; and intrusions (teeth being pushed into the bone, in another direction or partially out of the socket). There is also the risk of abrasions, broken or damaged blood vessels and cuts to soft tissues such as the tongue, cheeks, gums and lips.

While it’s important for everyone to practice good oral health habits by brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly, it can be especially important for athletes. An unhealthy tooth with decay or fillings is more likely to be damaged by a sports injury than a healthy tooth.

Always wear a mouth guard.

The best way to protect yourself is to wear a mouth guard. A properly fitted mouth guard should be used for nearly 30 different sports and activities. You should always wear a mouth guard for sports with potential for a lot of contact or collisions, such as basketball, football, handball, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and more. But it’s also important to prevent mouth injuries during sports with limited contact. It’s a good idea to wear a mouth guard when participating in baseball, bicycling, gymnastics, horseback riding, skateboarding, skating, skiing, softball, surfing, volleyball and more.

Athletes who don’t wear a mouth guard are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth than those who do.3

Look for these qualities in a mouth guard.

A mouth guard should fit properly, stay securely and comfortably in place, be easy to clean and reduce the force of impact. There are three types of mouth guards:

Stock, or ready-made, mouth guards are available at many department and sporting goods stores. While inexpensive, this can be the least effective type of mouth guard because it’s not customized for the individual athlete’s mouth. 

Boil-and-bite mouth guards are also easily found at sporting goods stores and are usually a better option than stock mouth guards because they are adapted to the user’s mouth. 

Custom-made mouth guards are made in a dental office. While they are the most expensive option and are not always covered by dental plans, they also provide the best fit to protect your mouth.