Participation in sports (youth and adolescent) has grown substantially over the years. Approximately 20-25 million kids participate in competitive physical activities annually. This growth in sports participation has understandably led to increased instances of Sports Injuries. Nearly 36% of all reported child and adolescent accidental injuries are sports related. According to American Dental Association(ADA) of this 36%, at least 15-20% are Maxillofacial (dental and jaw-related) injuries.
Types of Dental Injuries and Care
Dental injuries and their recommended care are listed below:
Could be a root fracture, chipped tooth or broken tooth.
- If possible stabilize the remaining portion of tooth by gently biting on a towel to restrict bleeding
- Athlete and tooth should be taken to a dentist immediately
- A balanced salt solution, milk, saline soaked gauze or under the athlete’s tongue are some of the ideal transportation methods for the broken tooth
The entire tooth along with root gets detached.
- Don’t touch the root; tooth should be handled by the crown only
- Do not try to clean, brush or sterilize the tooth
- If it is dirty, gently rinse with plain water
- Try to place tooth back in its socket and ask the athletes to bite down on a towel gently
- If reimplanting the tooth isn’t possible, use one of the transportation methods suggested above
- Take the athlete and uprooted tooth to the dentist
The tooth, though still in its socket, is dislocated.
- Extruded: Appears elongated when compared to surrounding teeth.
- Laterally displaced: the tooth could either be pushed back or pulled forward due to impact.
- Intruded: Looks short, possibly pushed into the gum.
Care For extruded and laterally displaced tooth:
- Do not try to reposition tooth
- Repositioning of the tooth by a qualified dental/ medical professional is required
- Ask the athletes to gently bite on a towel to prevent further dislocation and take the athlete to a dentist
Care for an intruded tooth:
- Repositioning should only be attempted and performed by a qualified dental/medical professional
- In this instance, athlete should not bite down on a towel
Time is of the essence, all the more when dealing with dental injuries. Seek immediate medical treatment (ideally within two hours).
Preventing dental injuries
Dental injuries are frequent in contact sports and non-contact sports too. Use of proper sports mouth guards can easily limit them. According to American dental association (ADA) wearing sports mouth guards by Athletes during practice and competition reduce the likelihood of dental injuries up to 60 times. In fact, they also reduce the impact of blows and concussions by balancing and supporting the jaw and face.
American Dental Association’s criteria for selecting a sports mouth guard is as follows:
- Should be flexible and wear resistant
- Should fit properly and be comfortable
- Should be easy to clean and maintain
- Should not hinder speech or normal breathing
Types of Mouthguards available
These are mass produced and therefore are available at low prices. They are available in stock sizes and are not adjustable for individual fit or comfort. They often slip away during use because they lack grip.
Boil and Bite
These are made from a thermoplastic material and are available in stock sizes. Unlike their ready-made counterparts, they can be heated and molded to the user’s teeth. Popular among amateur, semi-professional and recreational sports person owing to their affordability. They offer better fit and protection but lack in comfort when compared to the custom-made variant.
As the name suggests, these are custom made to fit the wearer. An impression of the wearer’s teeth is used to manufacture this mouth protector so it can offer best fit and comfort. These offer highest comfort and grip and do not slip away during use.
ADA recommends using custom-made guards to maximise protection benefits and reduce the risk of injury.
Esteemed Hialeah Dentist, Dr. Gonzalez says “Sports mouth guards should frequently be checked for wear and tear as it can negatively affect their protective benefits. In growing children and teenagers mouth guards need to be periodically replaced to keep pace with the growing jaw.”
Whether you play sports recreationally or competitively, you should know that a sports mouth guard is an essential part of an athlete’s standard equipment. Damaged teeth cannot grow back. More often than not these injuries cause permanent damage to the oral structure and require medical treatment. The treatment can be painful, expensive and time-consuming. It may even keep you away from your favorite sport and competitions for months. Preventing dental injuries and the resulting damage is possible. Protect that precious smile of yours, use a sports mouth guard.