Guarding against sports injury

Kaikorai Valley College basketball team members (from left) Phoenix Theobald (15), Nicholas...
Kaikorai Valley College basketball team members (from left) Phoenix Theobald (15), Nicholas Cruden (15), Shaun Thompson (16) and Lachlan Colquhoun (15) show off their new mouthguards. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The University of Otago's Faculty of Dentistry is helping young sportspeople protect their pearly whites, donating 150 mouthguards to schools around New Zealand.

Custom-fitted mouthguards are being sent out to Western Heights College and John Paul College, in Rotorua, Wellington East Girls' College, Linwood College in Christchurch and South Otago High School in Balclutha.

Mouthguards were also presented to Kaikorai Valley College's basketball A team yesterday.

Kaikorai Valley College sports co-odinator Theresa Johnson said the school had selected its boys' senior A basketball team to receive the mouthguards.

She had been playing basketball for a long time herself and had never sustained any dental injuries, but when you got "amongst it like the guys do'' an elbow to the face would not be too uncommon, she said.

"It's only a matter of time before it's an elbow in the mouth,'' she said.

The university sent out posters about mouthguard use to all secondary schools in the country and organised a video competition, encouraging pupils to make a short video stating why mouthguards should be used.

Winners received custom-fitted mouthguards for one of their school's sports teams, and as the only school in Dunedin to receive them, Kaikorai Valley College was very lucky, Ms Johnson said.

Oral biology lecturer Dr Carolina Loch Santos da Silva said the mouthguards were worth about $150 each - in the region of $22,500 in total.

Moulds were taken of the pupils' mouths, and the mouthguards were created in the tech lab at the university's Faculty of Dentistry, Dr Loch Santos da Silva said.

If pupils still had baby teeth they would need to change mouthguards as their adult teeth came through - but after the age of about 15, pupils should find their mouthguards lasted a few years if they took care of them.

Health sciences pro-vice chancellor Paul Brunton said the Faculty of Dentistry considered the initiative was a practical way to drive home the message about the use of mouthguards.

"Up to 39% of sports injuries are dental-related yet many of our young people continue not to wear a mouthguard when they play sport and practise,'' Prof Brunton said.

"We thought this was an ideal time to promote the use of mouthguards, while giving something back to communities as well.''

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