Keep your child’s smile safe from serious dental injury.

Sports-related dental injuries normally occur because of an accidental blow to the face either by a piece of equipment, like in soccer and lacrosse, or a stray limb when playing contact sports like football and rugby. While activities like bicycling, skateboarding, and skiing don’t necessarily involve contact with other participants, any time you move at high rates of speed, accidents can happen. The good news is with the proper protective head and mouth gear, you can dramatically reduce your child’s odds of serious dental and orofacial injury.

What sorts of injuries can happen?

Imagine a baseball hitting you on the mouth or jaw. There’s a big chance you’ll crack a tooth, right? If you’re lucky, the damage may only be cracks that appear across the tooth, what dental professionals call “craze lines,” and if you’re not, a piece may break off completely. When your child receives a blow to the face at a certain angle, it can sometimes cause a fractured root, where a crack starts at the root level and works its way to the tooth’s visible crown surface.

Anyone who gets hit in the face may also fracture their jaw or drive teeth back into the jawbone because there isn’t much room for flexibility in the mouth. This is quite rare and typically happens with baby teeth since the bones that hold the tooth sockets aren’t as hard as an adult’s.

It’s important to also remember that teeth aren’t the only thing in your child’s mouth that can get damaged when playing sports. Injuries to the mouth or facial areas can cause lip, tongue, and cheek lacerations as well. For example, a baseball player who gets hit in the face with a ball may inadvertently bite their tongue upon impact.

How often do sports-related dental injuries happen to kids?

Sports cause over 3 million knocked-out teeth every year, with sports-related dental injuries accounting for more than 600,000 emergency room visits annually. In fact, approximately 13% to 39% of all dental trauma happens in kids who participate in sports. Lip and intraoral injuries, including lacerations on the cheek and tongue, make up almost 25% of all sports-related facial injuries, with 1 in 10 players experiencing a facial or dental injury during a single athletic event. In addition, athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to experience trauma to the oral cavity, according to the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute. Reports on dental trauma incidents among high school athletes show that they occur  25% of the time in soccer, 50% in basketball, and 75% in wrestling, and out of all the participants in the study, only 6% used a mouth guard and none of them sustained any dental injuries. In younger age groups, sports with high rates of dental injuries include hockey, rugby, and soccer.

How does a mouth guard protect teeth?

When it comes to sports-related dental injuries, it’s all about prevention, and mouth guards are by far the best equipment for protecting both the teeth and soft mouth tissues. This dental device creates a barrier between the impact point and the teeth. Even if your little one receives a blow to the face or jaw, damage to the structures in the oral cavity will either be minimal or nonexistent, as the mouth guard will absorb the impact and keep your child’s teeth from coming into contact with each other. Your child may still feel sore or end up with a bruise, but that’s a small price to pay for your little one to keep all their teeth. Like any piece of sports equipment, however, all mouth guards are not created equal. The one that’s custom-fitted to your child’s mouth by their dentist will offer the best protection and the most comfort.

What should I do in case of a sports-related dental emergency?

It’s quite shocking when a dental injury occurs, and it’s unrealistic to assume that a certified athletic trainer or nurse will always be nearby. While your dentist is normally the first line of defense when it comes to dental emergencies, knowing first aid measures can significantly improve the outcomes for your child. In the case of a knocked-out tooth, avoid handling it by the root. Gently rinse it with water if there’s any debris on it. You should only attempt to reimplant a tooth if the player is alert and conscious. Otherwise, place the tooth or tooth fragment in a container with milk or wrap it in saline-soaked gauze. For dental injuries that involve teeth driven back into the jawbone, avoid repositioning the tooth and immediately take your child to an emergency room or dental office.

Keep dental injuries from spoiling the game.

Whether your child plays on a regular basis or not, a dental injury can happen at any time. Wearing a custom-fitted mouth guard can help reduce the risk of injury to the lip and intraoral structures. If you have concerns about sports-related dental injuries and would like to learn more about preventive measures like mouth guards, feel free to schedule a consultation with us. Dr. Jeff and his team can prove to be a helpful resource when it comes to protecting your child’s teeth from harm. We are also experts at restoring full mouth function while maintaining the health of your child’s smile. Creating natural and beautiful-looking restorations is just an added bonus!