Mouth Guards Protect More Than Just Your Teeth

September 28, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 28 /PRNewswire/ — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 300,000 sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States, with children and teens having the highest risk.

In an effort to prevent some of those concussions and to protect the teeth of Tennessee’s young athletes, Delta Dental of Tennessee is partnering with the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and the Nashville Predators to donate 18,750 mouth guards to youth football and hockey players across the state.

Mouth guards do more than protect an athlete’s teeth; they can also serve as shock absorbers, a protective means to prevent concussions.

If 37-year old Kristy Barkley had been wearing a mouth guard, her rugby-related concussions may have been prevented. After experiencing ten concussions, Barkley has been told by doctors that she has a 98 percent chance of developing early-onset Alzheimer’s, which usually appears between ages 35 and 55. Since her pre-diagnosis, she has been working with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness of the link between sports-related concussions and the disease.

“Most people think of Alzheimer’s as an old person’s disease,” said Barkley. “They’re not aware of the link between head injuries, in my case multiple sports-related concussions, and early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia. They also don’t know that your risk for a concussion increases with each occurrence.”

“We are increasingly hearing about serious, long-term consequences of concussions including the potential for early Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, D.D.S., president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee. “Young athletes should get in the habit of wearing a mouth guard every time they participate in sports, especially contact sports. The risk of serious injury is too great not to.”

Before athletic associations required football players to wear mouth guards and helmets, injuries to the face and mouth accounted for 50 percent of all injuries. Since adopting the requirement in the 1960s, the number has dropped to 0.5 percent. However, even in football, a sport requiring protective gear, only about 75 percent of the athletes wear their mouth guard.

Many professional athletes have been affected by concussions. Former NHL players Eric Lindros, Adam Deadmarsh, Scott Stevens and Pat LaFontaine, and former NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Steve Young all had their careers cut short as a result of concussions. NFL Hall-of-Famer John Mackey has developed dementia after one concussion and 10 years of heavy contact in the NFL.

Delta Dental first distributed mouth guards four years ago when it joined with the Predators for the “Protect Your Fangs” program. Since the program’s inception, more than 43,700 mouth guards have been distributed to youth athletes statewide. For more information on mouth guards and oral health, visit http://www.deltadentaltn.com/Mouthguards.

SOURCE Delta Dental of Tennessee

Source: newswire

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