Here’s a fun fact about college basketball’s annual super tournament: The nickname “March Madness” originated with sportscaster Brent Musberger, who uttered it during the 1982 tournament. Now, here’s a not-so-fun fact: According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, basketball has the highest rate of oral and facial injuries among contact sports.
Since football and hockey seem to get the most attention regarding dental trauma, that might surprise you. But sports like baseball and, yes, basketball have their share of mouth injuries. And for younger players, such an injury could pose a double whammy—not only can it affect present dental function and appearance, it could adversely impact ongoing oral development.
But there’s a simple way to reduce the risk of dental trauma: an athletic mouthguard. This removable oral device made of soft plastic absorbs most of the force from a hard contact. In fact, mouthguards are universally viewed as essential equipment in sports like football and hockey, and often mandated by leagues and associations.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in basketball. A recent article in the Journal of Orthopaedics and Trauma found that among 285 players surveyed, a full three-quarters never used a mouthguard during basketball activity, with less than 2% consistently wearing one.
If someone in your family plays basketball, not wearing a mouthguard increases their risk of an oral or facial injury that could have an impact for years to come. So what can you do to encourage your favorite young athlete to wear a mouthguard?
Start mouthguard use early. Like other aspects of dental care (for example, regular cleanings), your star player is more likely to maintain a mouthguard habit if they begin wearing one early in life. Don’t wait for high school. Be sure they’re wearing a mouthguard even while playing in a community youth basketball program.
Get a custom mouthguard. Although mouthguards are readily available in retail sporting goods stores, a mouthguard that is custom-made by a dentist based on individual mouth and jaw dimensions is preferable. They’re more costly, but they offer better protection and are generally more comfortable.
Promote mouthguard use during any basketball activity. The risk of injury isn’t limited to regulation basketball games. Injuries can happen just as easily in practice and during pickup games. Encourage mouthguard use during absolutely any basketball activity, including on the court at your local park.
Basketball is a great sport that builds teamwork, character and physical fitness. Encourage athletic mouthguard wear to help ensure those benefits aren’t marred by a dental injury.