The Irish Dental Association has welcomed the decision by the GAA to make it compulsory for players to wear mouth guards in football games and training.
At the weekend GAA Congress passed a motion making it mandatory for juvenile players up to minor grade to wear mouth guards from the start of 2013. The rule will come into effect for senior players from the start of 2014.
While some senior inter-county players have already expressed reservations about the rule, Dr Maurice Quirke of the Irish Dental Association has urged all players, parents and coaches to support it fully.
"Anybody who is playing contact sports without a mouth guard is being irresponsible. It's like going on a motorbike without a helmet. I would urge all players to protect their teeth from injury by using a gumshield immediately. Players are important role models for children so it is particularly important that they back the move" Dr Quirke said.
IDA figures indicate Ireland has one of the highest rates of sport-related oral injuries in the EU, with one third of all adult dental injuries being sports-related. In many sports such as rugby and hockey the wearing of gumshields is the norm with nearly all clubs adhering strictly to a 'no gumshield - no game' rule. The IDA believes parents and coaches in particular will have a key role to play in ensuring a similar situation pertains in gaelic football for young players.
Dr Quirke, who is based in New Ross, Co Wexford, said that some players were put off by ill fitting gumshields and it was important to ensure the mouth guard was as good a fit as possible.
"Pre-formed rigid mouth guards offer very little protection and are uncomfortable to wear. We wouldn't recommend using this type. Customised gumshields offer the best protection. A well-fitted sports guard made by your local dentist is what people should be opting for. For children between 6 and 12 years old whose teeth are constantly changing the boil and bite type of mouth guard offers a practical and economical solution" Dr Quirke concluded.
The Irish Dental Association believes the gumshield rule should also apply to hurling and it is hopeful the GAA will introduce a similar measure for that sport in the near future.