An estimated 3 million teeth are knocked out annually during youth sporting events.
It’s that time of year again when your kids are heading back to school and are excited about joining their favorite sports teams. But, when you think of what they need for school – pens, paper, calculator and such – is a mouth guard on the list?
The mouth and face of a child or young adult can be easily injured, especially when proper precautions are not taken when participating in sports or recreational activities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 7 million sports- and recreation-related injuries, and more than half of those injuries are sustained by children as young as 5 years old.
Last year, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation forecasted that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events. They also reported that athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth! Yet, in a survey commissioned by the American Association of Orthodontists, 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. But, if mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?
This same survey found that 84 percent of children do not wear mouth guards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they help protect jaws. So even if they’re not required, it is an important tool to have.
An effective mouth guard holds teeth in place, allows for normal speech and breathing, and provides a high degree of comfort and fit. It should cover the teeth and, depending on the patient’s bite, also the gums.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Association of Orthodontists and the American Dental Association offer the following tips to prevent or minimize injury to athletes:
- Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports. Mouth guards can help prevent injury to a person’s jaw, mouth and teeth, and are significantly less expensive than the cost (and pain) to repair an injury.
- Wear a helmet. Helmets absorb the energy of an impact and help prevent damage to the head.
- Wear protective eyewear and a face shield to avoid damage to eyes, the delicate bones around eyes, nose and jaw.
If you do suffer a dental injury and knock out a tooth, make sure you find the tooth (avoid touching the root) and call your dentist immediately. Try and keep the tooth as clean as possible and store in milk if you can. Most teeth can be re-implanted if cared for properly and are re-implanted quickly, and your dentist will have all equipment and necessary materials needed to treat dental injuries.
Be proactive this season when you head out to play recreational and/or organized sports! Your dentist can recommend the best mouth guard for every sports activity and will help properly fit it to your mouth to prevent accidents and traumatic injuries to your teeth and jaw. So, remember to play it safe on the field so you can shine your smile when you win!