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MouthGuard Myths

CHICAGO, Illinois – The perceived danger in sports forms parents' views toward mouthguards more than the actual risk of injury, according to a recent survey. Parents tend to encourage mouthguards only if their child participates in sports that require mouthguards (like football, hockey or wrestling) or if their child has suffered an oral injury during sports. The results of the survey, published in the December 1997 issue of Pediatric Dentistry, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, evaluated parental attitudes to find out why so few parents encourage their children to use mouthguards in sports. Researchers identified several mouthguard myths in parents' responses:
  • Which sports are risky? More than half the parents who responded to the survey believe that football, hockey and wrestling are sports that place children most at risk for oral and facial injury and therefore should have mandatory policies. However, parents surveyed perceived little need for mouthguards in basketball, baseball and soccer. Of the total injuries reported in the survey, 19 percent occurred in basketball, 17 percent in baseball and 11 percent in soccer.

  • "It's too uncomfortable." Parents generally adopted their child's opinion on mouthguards, reporting reasons for not wearing mouthguards as "uncomfortable," "poor retention and loose fit" and "gagging and nausea." Notably in this survey, no data were collected regarding how many of the children were wearing stock or mouth-formed mouthguards as opposed to custom-made mouthguards. Though children's criticism may be valid, parents may change their attitudes if they are informed of measures that can eliminate discomfort.

  • Who needs them most, boys or girls? Parents were more likely to encourage mouthguards for sons than daughters. Researchers attribute this to the perceived notion that males are more likely to be involved in traditional contact sports. However, recent studies report that oral and facial injuries to female athletes exceed those in males.

  • Is requiring mouthguards the best way to ensure their use? Despite the high number of parents who never received information about mouthguards, 42 percent nonetheless purchased one for their child. Why? Most parents reported mandatory-mouthguard sports as the sport of choice for their child.

  • How much information do parents receive about mouthguards? Researchers concluded that parents have little information to help them decide when to encourage mouthguards, which is a possible explanation for contradictory attitudes. Three-quarters of the parents surveyed never received any mouthguard information. Of those who have, most obtain the information through children's sports programs or by dental treatment plans. However the majority of parents surveyed say they want their children to use mouthguards and believe it's up to parents and coaches to regulate their use.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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