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New Study Reveals Mouthguards are Protective, but can Cause Harm

Study finds athletic mouthguards may cause oral lesions and disease

Rosemont, IL (Vocus) August 26, 2009 -- Although commonly used to protect an athlete's teeth during contact sports, mouthguards are now being questioned for their potential to injure a player's mouth. A new study published in the September/October issue of Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach found that mouthguards may increase the number and intensity of mouth cuts and abrasions, exposing an athlete to an increased chance of infection due to the bacteria, yeast, and fungi that mouthguards routinely collect.

Sixty-two collegiate football players' mouths were examined pre-season and post-season. The players selected their own mouthguards, either a "boil and bite" device or a custom-made device. At pre-season testing, 75 percent of the players had oral lesions located in three different areas of the mouth (gums, cheek, and roof of mouth). By the end of the season, 96 percent of the participants had oral lesions not only in the same three areas of the mouth, but also on the tongue.

"We saw not only an overall increase in the number of lesions, but also a wider distribution," explains author Richard T. Glass, DDS, PhD and professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences. "While there might be other contributing factors to the oral lesions, the percentage increase and the specific locations of the oral lesions, compared with other studies done of the general population, indicated that mouthguards have a significant negative impact on the mouth."

Researchers stress that even with the increase in oral lesions, mouthguards are still an important piece of safety equipment for contact sports. "By no means should the value of a mouth guard be discounted," Glass emphasizes. "The protection they do offer teeth during contact sports is important. However, the length of time that a mouthguard is used and how often it is cleaned needs to be revised."

Glass and his co-authors suggest in the study that as soon as a mouthguard becomes distorted or develops sharp jagged edges or after 14 days of regular use, it should be discarded, whichever comes first. The study also pointed out that mouthguards have a natural ability to become a breeding ground for micro-organisms and should be sanitized on a daily basis using an antimicrobial denture-cleaning solution.

"This study stresses the importance of informing athletes of the danger of not properly taking care of a mouthguard. A mouthguard will do your mouth good only if you keep it in good shape," adds Glass.

Published bimonthly, Sports Health is a collaborative publication from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), and the Sports Physical Therapy Section (SPTS). Other organizations participating in the publication include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine (AOASM). For more information on the publication or to submit a manuscript, visit For more information on this press release, please contact Lisa Weisenberger at lisa(at)aossm(dot)org or 847-292-4900.

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