Skiing the Austrian Alps? Pack your mouthguard

Sports participation is part of everyday life for many people, but without the proper oral protection, a trek on the mountain bike or finally conquering that ski slope could cause permanent tooth damage, according to a study in the General Dentistry.

Researchers recorded data on dentofacial injuries at a hospital in Austria, and found that 31 percent of more than 9,500 patients admitted during a 10-year period suffered from sports-related injuries. Dental and surrounding mouth injuries made up 51 percent of sports-related visits to the hospital. The sports racking up the most injuries were skiing (32 percent), bicycling (24 percent), and soccer (9 percent).

These sports are high-speed, played on a hard or semi-hard surface, and have the potential of sending flying objects into the face–be it chunks of snow or ice, loose gravel or rocks, or a soccer ball.

Other interesting findings reveal December, January, February and March are the top months for sports-related accidents, and the age group most at risk for sports-related injuries are the 10-19 year- olds.

“At any age, teeth must be protected when playing any sport,” says Peter G. Bastian, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

Talk to your dentist about a custom-made mouthguard. “They are better than store-bought mouthguards, because they conform to your actual bite and are made of more durable material,” he said.

“Knocking out a tooth can affect the way you speak and eat,” says Dr. Bastian. “And today, with the importance society places on the way you look, a couple of missing teeth can affect job opportunities.”

Additionally, the cost of fixing damaged teeth far out-weighs the cost of a mouthguard, says Robert Gassner, MD, DMD, PhD, author of the study “Dentofacial Trauma in Sports Accidents.”

Sports-related accidents caused more than 5 million deaths worldwide in 1990, and made up more than 15 percent of Disability-Adjusted Life Years, which considers productive years lost to a disability. “A disability can really affect your chances of getting back into the workforce,” he said. “The cost of seeing specialists to get the problem fixed can be high.”