Sports are an important element in human society — besides providing enjoyment they also build discipline, teamwork and character.
But sports activities, especially for children and teenagers, also carry the risk of physical injury — and your teeth and mouth aren’t immune. About 22,000 mouth injuries occur annually in individuals under the age of 18. As the degree of contact within the sport rises, so does the risk of dental injuries.
To reduce this risk, it’s important to adopt a comprehensive approach to dental injuries, beginning with protection. For any sport that involves a ball, stick, puck or physical contact with another player, athletes should incorporate two pieces of equipment to fully protect against mouth injury: headgear and a mouthguard. Both help to evenly distribute the forces generated during an impact and thus reduce the chance or severity of injury.
The design of headgear will depend on other factors involving a particular sport. Mouthguards are more singular in their purpose, and so what works in one sport should work in another. While there are a number of types like stock or “boil and bite,” the highest level of protection is a custom-fitted mouthguard created by a dentist to specifically fit the individual’s bite. Although more costly than other options, it can better reduce the chances of an even more costly mouth injury.
Because we can only reduce the risk of injury but never eliminate it, protection is only part of the approach. Individuals, parents and sports officials should have plans in place for treating dental injuries should they occur. Depending on the level of trauma, individuals should have access to a dentist as soon as possible. It’s also important to know what to do when specific injuries occur, whether they require an immediate, urgent or less urgent response. The Dear Doctor magazine article, “The Field Guide to Dental Injuries” is an excellent primer on dental injury treatment.
Sports can have a positive effect on physical, emotional and social development. Adopting a well-rounded approach to dental injury prevention and treatment will help keep the focus on those benefits.
If you would like more information on protection and treatment from sports-related dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”