“Can a Mouth Guard Prevent a Concussion?”
The Study Setup
The study tracked six high school football teams, totaling 412 players. Half of the players selected their own store-bought mouth guards, and the other half were given custom athletic mouth guards. These mouth guards were customized by taking a mold of the players’ teeth and then fashioning a custom fit mouth guard from the teeth anatomy.
Head Injury Rates Store-Bought = 8.3% Custom-Fit=3.6%
8.3% of the players over-the-counter mouth guards suffered mild traumatic brain injuries / concussions, whereas only 3.6% of players with custom-fit mouth guards suffered such injuries.
Can a mouth guard prevent a concussion? Researchers are careful to note that a direct cause-and-effect correlation cannot be inferred from these data. For example, there is some variation in thickness between store-bought mouth guards and custom athletic mouth guards. Such a difference in thickness could reduce the shock absorbency of the thinner guards. In addition, poor-fitting mouth guards are more likely to come out of place and deteriorate more rapidly due to anatomically atypical wear.
In the end, all that can be said for certain is that wearing a custom-fit mouth guard is likely to reduce the chances of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury.
Getting the Right Equipment
This study is great for demonstrating the importance of proper dental protection. However, it’s important to note one of the more common reasons that players might forego a custom, dentist-made mouth guard: cost.
The price you might pay a dentist for a custom athletic mouth guard is often prohibitive. Typical fees are in the range of $500 for a custom-fit mouth guard, and sometimes more than twice that.
The expense is logical when you consider that a dentist has numerous salaries to pay, as well as general overhead typically associated with running a physical medical office. Fortunately, you have options.
Technological advancements allow for more options. That means athlete safety doesn’t have to break the bank.
In recent years, as the manufacturing technology and materials have become more readily available to non-dentist suppliers, your options as a consumer and patient have expanded greatly.
Online custom dental mouth guard labs are now increasingly common, though a relatively small handful of us would be considered reputable and reliable, offering features like quality guarantees, free shipping, and the like. The best part is that online labs can offer the same material and customization at a fraction of the cost associated with dental offices. We ship the same custom-fitting kit straight to your home, and you mail it right back to the lab. After that, it’s a simple process for the laboratory to fabricate the custom mouth guard and mail it back to you.
When to choose a dentist over an online lab.
What’s the downside of using an online lab? Great question. As with anything, there’s a trade off. For example, if you have pathological dental anatomy or other mouth conditions that would require frequent adjustments to your mouth guard, then you should probably choose a dental lab instead of a mail-order lab. Both can often provide adjustments, but the process is much simpler and safer under the supervision of a licensed dentist or orthodontist.
But if you expect to keep basically the same teeth in basically the same places for a while, then there’s no real benefit to using a local dentist instead of an online lab. Particularly when you consider the cost difference: online labs often charge only a fraction of the typical dentist fees, and are often running sales that could bring costs down to around $100.
Consider your options.
The economics of safety decisions are an unpleasant reality of society. Everyone would agree that safety should always come first in theory. But in reality, few families or individuals can afford the expenses historically associated with professional dental customization. Thankfully, that sad fact is becoming a relic of the past.
After reading this article, please consider commenting below with your own anecdotal experience. We encourage everyone to make important safety decisions in consultation with physicians and other healthcare practitioners, but your opinions still matter.
When you comment, consider such topics as your own head and neck injuries, as well as your experience with mouth guards. This could include basic mouth guards, boil-and-bite mouth guards, custom mouth guards from a dentist, or custom mouth guards ordered online. If you’ve used any other types of mouth guards, please share!