mouthguard-usageA new survey of parents in the United States finds that only 4 in 10 children participating in fall and winter sports wear mouth guards.

The survey, conducted by Delta Dental, looked at mouth guard usage by children participating in a range of sports. When looking at higher-impact sports, the survey results show that for football, only 32% of parents report their child wears a mouth guard; for field hockey, just 14%. Lacrosse and ice hockey both fall to 11%, alongside volleyball.

“Something as simple as a mouth guard could be the difference between a safe sporting activity and a trip to the emergency room,” said Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and policy. “A conversation with your dentist, and a well-fitting mouth guard, can help ensure children who play contact sports keep their smiles healthy.”

A 10-year study of mouth and jaw injuries published in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery found that roughly 32% of facial trauma cases in children occurred during sports activities. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry points to research showing baseball and basketball have the highest number of sports-related dental injuries. In baseball, just 22% of children wear mouth guards while playing the sport, while 24% do in basketball.