The rough reality of rugger

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  Posted by: Dental Design      20th October 2018

It goes without saying that rugby can be a dangerous sport. After all, the very nature of the game involves a lot of physical contact and players are almost constantly at risk of collisions and heavy impacts, both of which can lead to facial injuries and even concussions.

These fast-moving and violent aspects of the game are what make it exciting as both a sport and a spectacle, but for dental professionals it means that they need to protect their patients who play the sport as much as possible.


A blow to the head

Concussions are a common side effect of head injuries seen in rugby players. Despite being a regular occurrence, pinpointing the exact amount of concussions sustained by rugby players can be difficult as they affect people differently.

Defined as a temporary injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head, symptoms of a concussion can vary from minor conditions such as headaches and dizziness to more extreme problems such as double vision, memory loss and loss of balance.[i]As these symptoms manifest in different severities, some players may shrug off a headache or dizziness and presume they don’t have a concussion at all. This could be dangerous as concussions can be a sign of a major brain injury and should be monitored carefully.

England Rugby (RFU) states that head injuries account for 25% of all injuries seen on the field, and among this the rate of concussion among players is about one every six games for professional players. Whilst this rate is lower for amateur players (around 1 in every 21 games),[ii]this still shows that concussion is a serious problem for rugby players and something that should be protected against as much as possible.


Are orofacial injuries common in rugby?

With fast throws, vicious tackles, packed scrums and a competitive atmosphere, it’s easy to see why dental injuries in rugby are a frequent occurrence. Both rugby league and rugby union feature similar styles of gameplay, so it’s unsurprising to find that dental trauma is widespread in both.

One source states that incidence of orofacial trauma is as much as 64.9% among rugby union players, and out of these 41.9% of incidents directly affected the dentition.[iii]Another study examined how common dental trauma was in athletes who played rugby league, including participants in National, Premier, Women’s and Junior teams. The survey of 517 players found that over half of them had experienced at least one serious injury, and out of these 39.5% had injured their face during play.[iv]

With statistics like this it’s easy to see why prevention of trauma during rugby games should be a top priority for dental professionals, especially as these injuries may lead to lasting problems.


The lasting dangers of dental trauma

Dental injuries can often be nothing more than a cut lip or a bleeding gum, but serious cases such as avulsion can be difficult to solve.

Once knocked out, replanting an avulsed tooth has only a limited chance of success. If the tooth is lost on a playing field it can be impossible to recover, but even if it is found, there is only a small window of time to replant successfully. This can also be affected by whether the patient has received the necessary first aid and if the tooth has been transported properly (it’s recommended the tooth be put in milk or kept in the patient’s mouth).[v]

Even when a replantation treatment is successful, it can still mean lasting effects on the oral cavity. One study found that even though 95.6% of the replanted teeth examined survived the first year, 82.2% of these required root canal treatment, and then other problems such as root resorption and infection related resorption occurred which could impact the lifespan of the tooth past the one year mark.[vi]


The role of the mouth guard

Mouth guards have been proven to lessen the likelihood and severity of dental trauma in rugby players.[vii]All types of mouth guard are effective, but it has been found that custom-fabricated ones are likely to offer the best protection as they are individually moulded to the patient’s oral cavity and therefore provide better shock absorption.[viii]

This extra level of shock absorbency could also protect players from incurring concussions, meaning that to offer the best guard against injury you should prescribe a device that’s truly tailored to your patient.

Saber Protect mouth guards from CosTech Dental laboratory are one such product. These bespoke mouth guards offer varying levels of thickness and shock absorbency depending on which sport, and at what level, your patient plays. This provides them with protection based on their sporting lifestyle, keeping their teeth and head safe from risk. Furthermore, due to the mouth guard’s custom fit, players can still communicate with their team and hydrate effectively – ideal for competitive sporting scenarios.


A winning solution

Rugby is always going to be a popular sport, so it falls into the dentist’s hands to ensure that people stay protected during play. By prescribing an effective mouth guard you can lessen the risk of dental trauma for these patients and prevent them from sustaining dental injuries that may haunt them for a lifetime.


For more information about CosTech Dental Laboratory, please visit call 01474 320076

[i]NHS Choices. Concussion. Link: [Last accessed April 18].
[ii]England Rugby. Concussion in Rugby. Link:[Last accessed April18].
[iii]Ilia, E., Metcalfe, K., Heffernan, M. Prevalence of Dental Trauma and Use of Mouthguards in Rugby Union Players. Aust Dent J. 2014; 59(4): 473-81.
[iv]Schildknecht, S., Krastl, G., Kuhl, S., Filippi, A. Dental Trauma and its Prevention in Swiss Rugby.
[v]  Dental Trauma Guide. Avulsion. Link: [Last accessed April 18].
[vi]Chappuis, V., von Arx, T. Replantation of 45 Avulsed Permanent Teeth: A 1-year Follow-up Study. Dent Traumatol. 2005; 21(5): 289-96.
[vii]Kay, E., Kakarla, P., Macleod, D., McGlashan, T. Oro-facial and Dental Injuries in Club Rugby Union Players. Br. J. Sp. Med 1990; 24(4): 271-273.
[viii]Mantri, S., Mantri, S., Deogade, S., Bhasin, A. Intra-oral Mouth-Guard In Sport Related Oro-Facial Injuries: Prevention is Better Than Cure! J Clin Diagn Resv. 2014; 8(1); 299-302.

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