Purpose: Dental injuries can be permanent and disfiguring. They are also universally expensive to treat. Many dentists, sports physicians, and athletic trainers recommend mouthguards for athletes participating in certain competitive sports, including men's college basketball, because of a common perception that mouthguards afford protection from dental injuries, and even some concussions. However, there are few reliable reports of the incidence of dental injuries and concussions in men's college basketball, and good evidence that mouthguards reduce the risk of these injuries in this population of athletes is notably lacking. This study prospectively recorded dental injuries and concussions among 50 men's Division I college basketball teams during one competitive season, then compared injury rates between mouthguard users and nonusers.
Methods: During the 1999 to 2000 basketball season, athletic trainers from 50 men's Division I college basketball programs used an Internet Web site to submit weekly reports of the number of athlete exposures, mouthguard users, concussions, oral soft tissue injuries, dental injuries, and dentist referrals.
Results: Response rate was 86%. There were 70,936 athlete exposures. Athletes using custom-fitted mouthguards accounted for 8663 exposures. Injury rates were expressed as number of injuries per 1000 athlete exposures. There were no significant differences between mouthguard users and nonusers in rates of concussions (0.35 vs 0.55) or oral soft tissue injuries (0.69 vs 1.06). Mouthguard users had significantly lower rates of dental injuries (0.12 vs 0.67; P < 0.05) and dentist referrals (0.00 vs 0.72; P < 0.05) than nonusers.
Conclusion: Custom-fitted mouthguards do not significantly affect rates of concussions or oral soft tissue injuries, but can significantly reduce the morbidity and expense resulting from dental injuries in men's Division I college basketball.