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Sports dentistry is the prevention and treatment of dental injuries and related oral diseases, as well as the sharing of information and equipment designed to help protect the teeth, mouth, jaw, and face of athletes of all ages. Injuries to the teeth and mouth are common among athletes. It's important to protect your child's smile if he or she plays sports, for aesthetics as well as health reasons.
If your child participates in most any sport, a mouth guard could be a lifesaver in terms of preserving teeth.
Anyone who participates in a sport that carries a significant risk of injury should wear a mouth protector, according to the American Dental Association. Sports like basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and volleyball all pose risks to your child's mouth and teeth. We usually think of football and hockey as the most dangerous to the teeth, but nearly half of sports-related mouth injuries occur in basketball and baseball.
A mouth guard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, incidents of unconsciousness, jaw fractures, and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouth guards are effective in moving soft tissue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.
What do the following have in common?
- A bat
- A ball
- A knee or elbow
- A hard surface, such as the ground or the bottom of a swimming pool
They all are things that could easily come into contact with your child's mouth when participating in sports. And they all have the potential for damaging or knocking out teeth, or fracturing or dislocating a jaw. High-risk activities include "contact" sports, such as football, boxing, martial arts (including karate and kick-boxing) and hockey, as well as non-contact sports such as basketball, baseball, bicycle riding, roller-blading, soccer, wrestling, racquetball, surfing, and skateboarding.
Even swimming, poses serious hazards for your child's teeth. Common swimming pool accidents occur when children, swimming underwater, quickly ascend to the surface, hitting the hard ledge, and loosening the front tooth. Running on slippery, slick cement and ceramic pool surfaces also can send your child headfirst into the ground, increasing the likelihood of a chipped or loose tooth.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, many sports-related emergencies involving teeth can be avoided by following the rules and remembering dental first aid steps. If your child participates in any sports, a mouthguard is a smart investment. Mouthguards are soft plastic devices that fit over the front of your child's mouth, protecting his teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums from sports-related injuries. A well-fitting mouthguard can protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face, and even some severe injuries to the head.
Common Dental Injuries in Sports
Tooth knocked out:
- Time is the most important factor when trying to save a tooth, so get to your dentist as soon as possible. In general, there is a 30-minute window of opportunity to re-implant the tooth in the socket.
- Do not try to re-implant the tooth yourself.
- The best liquid to transport a tooth in is cold milk. If milk is not available, use saliva (if possible), saline, or if nothing else is available, water.
- Don't let the tooth dry out and don't wrap it in anything.
- Don't touch the tooth root if you can avoid it.
- Your dentist will likely use an X-ray of the tooth to determine the treatment necessary.
- For a serious chip that exposes the pulp of the tooth, get to your dentist as soon as possible.
- If a tooth is chipped or cracked, sometimes the tooth can be fixed with a filling or bonding alone.
- Sometimes a tooth is cracked or chipped in a way affecting the nerve of the tooth, and a more complicated treatment may be needed.
- If a tooth is moved due to trauma, see your dentist as soon as possible.
- Do not try to move the tooth back on your own.
- For any mouth discomfort before you get to the dentist, apply ice.
One of the best ways to prevent injury to your child's teeth and mouth while playing sports is to wear a mouthguard. There are several types of mouthguards (hyperlink to mouthguard section) to choose from, and your doctor can help you choose the best one for your child's particular needs.