Female dental injuries on the rise in SA

Female sportspeople are risking their teeth says the ADA
Female sportspeople are risking their teeth says the ADA

South Australia’s sporty females are risking permanent damage and a lifetime of dental treatment by shunning adequate dental protection.

The South Australian branch of the Australian Dental Association (ADASA) says its members are treating more women and girls with dental injuries sustained on the field.

“Females have a strong appetite for team and contact sports such as hockey, football and roller derby, but are neglecting to adequately protect themselves,” ADASA spokesperson Dr Angelo Papageorgiou said.

Dr Angelo Papgeorgiou of the ADASA
Dr Angelo Papgeorgiou of the ADASA

“Dental injuries sustained during sport can be painful, disfiguring and involve lengthy and complex treatment.

“South Australian dentists are treating more females – both women and young girls—for dental trauma that could have been avoided or minimised by wearing a protective, custom-fitted mouthguard.

“At the same time, the incidence among males remains a concern.

“I recently treated a 14 year-old girl who received a blow to the face from a soccer ball. She now wears a false tooth until she is old enough for dental implants and suffers from ongoing issues.

“We need to dispel the myth that mouthguards are the domain of professional male athletes.

“Custom-fitted mouthguards should be worn by any person of any age while playing and training for sport or undertaking any physical activity where there is a possibility of contact to the face.”

Dr Papageorgiou said a key reason for the trend was problems with over-the-counter mouthguards.

“Over-the-counter mouthguards give people a false impression of what a mouthguard is really like,” he said.

“Common excuses for not wearing mouthguards include difficulties breathing, speaking or yelling out to teammates and experiences with mouthguards that rub, hurt or won’t stay in.

“These problems are specific to over-the-counter products, which are far less effective than custom-made. In fact, some studies place the degree of protection afforded by over-the-counter mouthguards as only slightly better than wearing no mouthguard at all.

“A custom-fitted mouthguard will be comfortable, allow you to breathe and speak clearly and won’t shift or fall.

“Most importantly, it will help to absorb and spread the impact of a blow to your face, which might otherwise result in an injury to your mouth or jaw.

“The cost of repair to a tooth and a lifetime of ongoing treatment can potentially cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It is much cheaper to prevent injury than to treat it.”

A telephone survey shows that only around one third (36 per cent) of children aged five to 17 have a mouthguard and wear it while playing contact sport, such as hockey, football or netball. The number of children who wear their mouthguards for training sessions drops to just 17 per cent. Of these children, only 35 per cent have a custom-fitting mouthguard that is tailored to their teeth and jaw.

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