The use of mouthguards in athletics has significantly reduced accidental fracturing of teeth, reduced morbidity of many orofacial injuries and even possibly lessening the number of concussions. Mouthguards were first mandated for boxing in the 1920s. By the 1960s, their use became mandatory for high school and college football.


Mouthguards are currently made with polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane. They can be custom made by a dentist or at home with the “boil and bite” variety. The NCAA currently requires mouthguard use in four sports: ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse and football. The American Dental Association recommends mouthguards for 29 sports. Studies have shown that the frequency of orofacial injuries and fractured teeth in individuals who do not wear a mouthguard is from 1.6 to almost 2 times higher. As far as concussion prevention, the studies are inconclusive because concussions can happen without a blow to the jaw. However, it would be very logical to think that the cushioning effect of a mouthguard could reduce the number of concussions involving mouth trauma.

Root Canal Complications

Most root canals can be done with little or no discomfort and will usually heal uneventfully. Unfortunately, there is an occasional poor soul who has post-operative complications. The most common of the complications is pain. Most pain is caused by inflammation. I always recommend that my patients who have undergone root canal treatment take an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) such as ibuprofen right after the procedure. Getting the anti-inflammatory into the bloodstream before the inflammation sets in is the key to preventing most post-operative pain. Infections can be the other main reason for post-op pain. A root canal is usually done on a tooth that is already infected. Through the root canal process, most of the infectious bacteria are removed. But there is still the possibility that some bacteria could be left at the tip of the root. Normally, the bioburden is greatly reduced from the root canal procedure, however, sometimes the body’s defenses can still be overwhelmed. Most infections can be handled with a single regimen of antibiotics. If you experience pain and/or swelling that is present for more than a couple of days after a root canal, you should contact your dentist immediately.

Dentally Related Headaches

There are a wide range of causes of headaches and tooth and jaw problems are on that list. A toothache can refer pain up toward the ear, onward toward the temple, then eventually to an old-fashioned headache. The more common dentally related cause of headaches is pain from the temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) and the related muscles of mastication. Inflammation in the joint itself can cause pain that can radiate to the head. When the surrounding muscles go into spasm, the constantly contracted muscles choke off the blood vessels reducing the blood flow. This causes a buildup of lactic acid. It’s the same discomfort we get when we start exercising after an extended layoff. It’s a malady called myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome. The muscle spasms will start with the chewing muscles, but then will get the other muscle groups involved. When these head and neck muscles begin to spasm, we call that – a headache. Although different from the migraine, it is nonetheless – a pain. Your dentist can help you with diagnosing and treating many headaches. Once serious problems, for example, brain tumors, have been ruled out, then the dentist can try a TMD splint, basically a mouthpiece, to take the pressure off the jaw joint, and will many times alleviate the pain.