Dr Ben Atkins BDS



Dr Ben Atkins BDS

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Treatment & Care

Making sure British rugby has more teeth…

27th November 2015

I’ve always been a rugby fan. I used to play a lot, starting at school, and really got hooked after my Dad showed me that famous Gareth Edwards try for the British Lions – one of sport’s all-time great moments, I’m sure you’ll agree (watch it here, if you don’t believe me!).

So the recent Rugby World Cup was a real treat for me. Aside from some great games and a few question marks (what happened to England…and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere sides, for that matter?), it also presented a great opportunity to promote the importance of safety on the pitch.

In fact, the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) – an organisation I’m very involved with – put out a press release at the start of the tournament highlighting the use of mouthguards for children playing the game. With the tournament no doubt encouraging youngsters to play it couldn’t have been better timed, and I fully support their message.

The BDHF found that in the UK, only about a third of kids wear a mouthguard when they play rugby at school – far too low! The majority of rugby injuries are dental, with cracked or avulsed (knocked out) teeth, so it makes sense to get them into the habit of wearing one.

How much sense was shown when New Zealand rugby made them compulsory for all players and saw a 43% drop in dental injuries; and while the Rugby Football Union (RFU) regulations make them compulsory for all players above school level, it’s surely about time we got kids thinking about it as early as possible and made mouthguards an essential item in their kit bag.

What type of mouthguard is best? Well, you’ll find two basic types – off-the-shelf models, including the ‘boil and bite’ type (the material softens when boiled to mould itself around your teeth) are better than nothing, but as everyone’s teeth are unique I’d always advise having one custom-fitted for the best protection. Any dentist can do that for you.

Rugby always has been and always will be a very physical sport – and I wouldn’t want to change that – but having played it for years I’ve seen first-hand what can happen. And of course, in my day job as a dentist I can appreciate some of the problems injuries can cause, leading to a lifetime of treatment (not to mention the pain!). Personally, as a responsible parent, I’d prefer to pay to have my child’s teeth properly protected – and I’d hope you would too!