I have two young girls who are karate kids. One went through an arduous 14-hour test with her peers and adults and became a black belt this year while the other is a green belt. Both spar on a regular basis. I am lucky enough to help out with one of the karate classes a week and train at least three times a week; one of my favorite parts of any karate class is sparring. One thing I have noticed, though, is the number of kids that use their mouth guards as a chew toy. That does not really surprise me. There are a number of young children, including my own girls, who train at the karate school we attend, and mouth guards are not the most comfortable things to put in your mouth. However, the risks associated with not wearing them far outweigh the discomfort.
WebMD notes that those who participate in contact sports, such as martial arts, boxing, football and the like should definitely wear mouth guards. The thing is, many who participate in non-contact sports do not realize that they should also consider wearing a guard as well. In fact, if there is the risk of injury to the mouth, tongue or other soft tissues consideration should be made to wearing a mouth guard.
The injuries that could occur include tooth fracture, avulsion (the tooth is knocked out with the root), luxation (the tooth ends up in the wrong position) or intrusion (the tooth looks short and pushed in). While there is a certain degree of machismo associated with having a tooth injury – look at the honor we give to most hockey players every time they lose a tooth in a brawl – these sorts of injuries are actually quite serious and result in the injured person being taken to the dentist within two hours or the injury occurring.
Visiting a dentist can be an expensive proposition at best, and many parents would say they would prefer not having to bring themselves or their children there more frequently than they need to. In addition, dental procedures beyond cleaning can also be quite pricey; why not spend the $5 on a formed piece of plastic if it means the difference between a a full smile and missing teeth?
Children and adults alike have an innate desire to look good. While it looks sweet and endearing when a young tot is missing a tooth or two, older children and adults have a tendency to get self-conscious about their appearance. Anyone who has experienced dental pain in the past knows how very important it becomes to prevent it from happening again. A piece of formed plastic that goes over your upper teeth can do that. It is also important to note that the jury is still out on whether or not mouth guards can prevent concussion as well. While it would seem that many dental professionals say that mouth guards do not seem to have the role in preventing concussions they once did, many also say that not enough is known about the brain.
What remains clear is this: mouth guards do more good by being worn properly than if they are not. Encouraging children and adults alike to wear mouth guards properly instead of chewing on them will go a long way towards preventing many kinds of injuries. That is enough to encourage peace of mind for contact sports participants everywhere.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean