Teenagers think they cannot be hurt, so surveys finding that most young athletes will not wear mouth guards come as no surprise.Here is the abstract of the study from the Journal of the American Dental Association.
But what if a mouthful of plastic could make them jump higher or run faster?
"I couldn't make enough mouth guards," Academy for Sports Dentistry President Paul Nativi, DDS, told Medscape Medical News.
That is the promise held out by some mouth guard manufacturers, and a new study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association suggests there may be more than wishful thinking to the claim.
Researchers at the Citadel University in Charleston, South Carolina, compared a group of athletes wearing mouth guards with a group wearing no mouth guards and breathing through their mouths, and with a group wearing no mouth guards but breathing through their noses.
They found that the athletes using the mouth guards breathed in more oxygen and breathed out more carbon dioxide than the athletes in the other groups.
"I was surprised," Dena Garner, PhD, an associate professor of exercise and sports science, told Medscape Medical News. "I was skeptical that we would see any effect at all."
It is not the first time someone has tried to show that a mouth guard can do more than protect teeth — and Dr. Nativi is not convinced by any of the evidence — but he does not reject the possibility either.
So why should wearing a bit of plastic over the teeth help someone run faster or farther?
Background. The authors conducted a study to assess the effects of custom-fitted mouthpieces on gas exchange parameters, including voluntary oxygen consumption (VO2), voluntary oxygen consumption per kilogram of body weight (VO2 /kg) and voluntary carbon dioxide production (VCO2).There needs to be further study and if proven to be correct about athletic performance should greatly increase the number of athletic mouthguards made and delivered by the dentist. Athletes, especially those who participate in contact sports should be wearing the mouthguards in any case.
Methods. Sixteen physically fit college students aged 18 through 21 years performed two 10-minute treadmill runs (6.5 miles per hour, 0 percent grade) for each of three treatment conditions (mouthpiece, no mouthpiece and nose breathing). The authors assigned the conditions randomly for each participant and for each session. They assessed gas exchange parameters by using a metabolic measurement system.
Results. The authors used analysis of variance to compare all variables. They set the significance level at α = .05 and used a Tukey post hoc analysis of treatment means to identify differences between groups. The results showed significant improvements (P < .05) in VO2, VO2 /kg and VCO2 in the mouthpiece condition.
Conclusions. The study findings show that use of a custom-fitted mouthpiece resulted in improved specific gas exchange parameters. The authors are pursuing further studies to explain the mechanisms involved in the improved endurance performance exhibited with mouthpiece use.
Clinical Implications. Dental care professionals have an obligation to understand the increasing research evidence in support of mouthpiece use during exercise and athletic activity and to educate their patients.