Objectives: This paper examines the literature dealing with oral-facial injuries received during participation in sport and the possibilities open to athletes for their prevention. In particular, the paper examines five different aspects of this topic: the risk of dental injury while playing sports, the role of the mouthguard in preventing injury, types of athletic mouthguard, implications for patients undergoing orthodontic treatment and behavioural aspects of mouthguard wear.
Results: It is clear from this review that participation in a number of sports does carry a considerable risk of sustaining dental injury, not only in the so-called contact sports such as rugby and hockey, but also in less obviously dangerous sports such as basketball. Although some evidence exists to the contrary, the majority of studies have found the mouthguard to be the most effective way of preventing such injuries. It is also clear that the custom-fabricated mouthguard, in particular the pressure-laminated variety, is seen to afford most protection. Athletes undergoing orthodontic treatment present a particular problem as they are potentially at greater risk of injury because of increased tooth mobility and the presence of orthodontic appliances. The fabrication of mouthguards for these patients is also problematic and the literature covering this is reviewed. As with other preventive measures, mouthguard usage is often less than the dental profession would like; the reasons for this are explored in a small number of studies.
Conclusion: While much progress has been made in this area, the profession could do much more to promote the greater use of mouthguards.