Protective athletic mouthguards: Do they cause harm?

Richard T. Glass, Robert S. Conrad, Charles Rieger Wood, Aric J. Warren, Gerwald A. Kohler, James W. Bullard, Gifty Benson, Judyth M. Gulden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Protective athletic mouthguards (PAMs) have been worn in competitive sports for more than 100 years. Today, participants in contact and noncontact sports wear PAMs. Hypothesis: Wearing a PAM produces oral injury. Study Type: Case series. Study Design and Methods: Sixty-two Division I football players voluntarily participated in the study. Before the beginning of the season, each player underwent a thorough oral examination, and all abnormal oral findings were photographed (hyperkeratosis, erythema, ulceration, and combinations thereof). At midseason, 14 players were given complete oral examinations, with all abnormal oral findings documented. At season end, all remaining players (n = 53) had complete oral examinations and photographs taken of abnormal oral findings. Results: The preseason examination of 62 players found a total of 85 lesions (1.4 lesions per player) on the gingiva (n = 17), buccal mucosa (n = 60), and palate (n = 8). The 14 midseason players had 28 lesions (2.0 lesions per player) on gingiva (n = 8), buccal mucosa (n = 16), and tongue (n = 4). At season end, the 53 remaining players had 198 lesions (3.7 per player) on the gingiva (n = 96), buccal mucosa (n = 79), tongue (n = 18), and palate (n = 5). In addition, the lesion intensity scores progressively increased over the season. Because the palate did not come into direct contact with the PAM, it was used as an internal control. Conclusion: The wearing of a PAM may increase the number and intensity of oral mucosal injuries, which may cause localized soft tissue reactions such as hyperkeratosis, erythema, and ulceration. Clinical Relevance: Because the PAM reduces tooth injury but may cause oral lesions, it should be sanitized daily and changed regularly and replaced whenever it becomes sharp and jagged or when the athlete develops an irritation in the mouth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-415
Number of pages5
JournalSports Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Disease transmission
  • Microorganisms
  • Mouthguard care
  • Oral infections
  • Protective athletic mouthguard
  • Systemic infections


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