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In many places around the United States, the 2017 school year is already underway and, with it, so are fall sports like football and soccer. By now, you’ve probably taken your child in for a sports physical and purchased the gear and equipment they need for fall athletics. Make sure your student athlete heads onto the field with a mouthguard, too.
While some dental injuries can’t be prevented, consider this: An estimated 3 million teeth are knocked out in youth sporting events each year; yet, 84 percent of children do not wear mouthguards because they are not required to wear them.,
Athletes who do not wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to sustain damage to their teeth, according to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and the American Dental Association estimates that wearing them prevents more than 200,000 oral injuries (e.g., chips, cracks, knockouts and other impact-related injuries) each year. 
Some kids will resist wearing a mouthguard when playing contact sports or participating in other activities that make them susceptible to oral injuries. Parents may want to get encouragement from coaches and also bring up the topic of oral safety at their child’s next physical or dental exam.
Compared with sports equipment and school athletic fees, mouthguards don’t cost a whole lot. Common options include:
Boil and bite mouthguards
While each option has its advantages and disadvantages, for many parents, any of them tend to be a better bargain than the cost of repairing or replacing an avulsed—that is, knocked out—tooth or fixing other injuries to the mouth, jaw or face.
Whether or not mouthguards prevent some sports-related concussions by helping to absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw remains up for debate. 
Findings from a study published in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry suggest that certain mouthguards may at least limit their severity. The study found that high school football players who wore properly fitted, custom mouthguards were less likely to suffer concussions than those wearing a store-bought mouthguard. However, as one of the study’s authors stated, while more research around this topic is needed, the findings show the value of a custom mouthguard.
Some manufacturers claim their mouthguards prevent concussion, but there is not published scientific evidence backing such claims. Regardless, athletes (adults and children) are encouraged to wear them as a means of preventing orofacial and dental injuries—and know there may or may not be an added benefit of lessening concussion severity.
Mouthguard use can seem “uncool” in the eyes of some kids, but peer pressure works both ways. As with helmets, padding and other safety gear, when kids see their teammates and friends wearing them, they may be more willing to put them on.
Plus, mouthguards come in an array of colors—from clear and barely noticeable to bright and flashy. Picking one that matches your child’s sports uniform or favorite color may make wearing it more fun.
When you’re out playing with your kids or heading to your rec league game, you may want to wear one yourself to normalize the habit.
To learn more about the different types of mouthguards and what makes one effective, check out the American College of Prosthodontists official statement on mouthguard use in sports.
Ensure this school year is as safe as possible. Take preventive and precautionary measures to help stay out of the emergency room and on the field. Talk with your child’s dentist or doctor if you have questions about athletic mouthguards.
 American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. “Play it Safe: Prevent Childhood Injuries on the Field with Simple Sports Safety Precautions.” April 2, 2012. http://www.aapd.org/play_it_safe_prevent_childhood_injuries_on_the_field_with_simple_sports_safety_precautions/
 Academy of General Dentistry. “What is a Mouthguard?” Last reviewed January 2012. http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=M&iid=313&aid=1269
 Healthcare Bluebook. “Athletic Mouthguard.” Accessed July 21, 2016. https://healthcarebluebook.com/page_ProcedureDetails.aspx?id=153&dataset=dental&g=Athletic+mouthguard
 Stone, Paul. “Custom-Made Mouthguards May Help Prevent Sports-Related Brain Injuries.” Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital. May 1, 2014. http://www.traumaticbraininjury.net/custom-made-mouthguards-may-help-prevent-sports-related-brain-injuries/
 American College of Prosthodontics. “Position Statement: Mouthguard Use in Sports.” Revised and approved by the ACP Board of Directors on Oct. 20, 2015. https://www.prosthodontics.org/assets/1/7/Mouthguard_Use_in_Sports_Position_Statment.pdf