Over the years, sports participation by youths has grown steadily. It is estimated that 20 to 25 million youths participate in competitive sports. As a result of this growth in participation levels, incidence of injury has also increased. Some have reported sports to account for approximately 36 percent of all unintentional injuries to children and adolescents. Of those injuries, 10 to 20 percent of all sports related injuries are maxillofacial injuries according to the American Dental Association.

The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety reports dental injuries as the most common type of orofacial injury sustained during sports participation. They contend that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard. Often times these injuries will result in permanent damage to oral structures which require medical intervention.

Types of Dental Injuries
Injuries to the teeth can be grouped in three different categories, with specific care required for each type. The injures include fractures, avulsions, and luxations. Fractures can be classified as a root fracture, broken tooth, or chipped tooth. An avulsion is when an entire tooth, including the root, is knocked out. A luxation is when the tooth is still attached, but in the wrong position.

In all cases, the athlete should be brought to the dentist as soon as possible. In the case of an avulsion, never handle the tooth by the root. Always pick it up by the crown. If fragments can be transported they should be carried in something soft but firm enough to prevent the fragments from moving. If any knocked out teeth are dirty then only water should be used to rinse them off, gently. Never use a cleaning or sterilizing product on the tooth or tooth fragments!

When transporting an athlete who has a luxation, provide them with something soft to gently bite down on if need be. This will help to absorb any possible sudden jolts the mouth may experience on the way to the dentist – such as hitting a bump in the road.

It is important to remember time is critical when handling dental injuries. Do not allow the athlete to wait until the end of the game to seek treatment for a dental injury. Transport them to a dentist within two hours for the best outcomes.

Prevention of Dental Injuries
Most dental injuries are easily prevented. It has been suggested that a properly fitted custom mouthguard may reduce the rate of concussion as well as dental injuries. Some experts recommend that mouthguards be worn by athletes in competitive and recreational sports in which impact, contact and collision are likely to occur. The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouthguards for the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling. Other experts include baseball and softball infielders on that list. They further recommend the mouthguard to be worn during all practices and competition.

Selecting a Mouth Guard
There are three types of mouthguards:

  • Ready-made or stock mouthguard
  • Mouth-formed “boil and bite” mouthguard
  • Custom-made mouthguard made by a dentist

These mouthguards vary in price and comfort, yet all provide some protection. According to the American Dental Association, the most effective mouthguard should be comfortable, resistant to tearing, and resilient. A mouthguard should fit properly, be durable, easily cleaned, and not restrict speech or breathing. It is important to remember damaged teeth do not grow back. Protect that perfect smile – wear a mouthguard.

Call Westermeier Martin Dental Care to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-508-4547.