It goes without saying that your child’s teeth are pretty important. It also goes without saying that children are accident-prone and love to engage in activities that make parents just a little nervous. One such activity is organized sports.
The WHO recommends that children ages 5-17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day. That means there are a whole lot of active children. 36 million to be exact. And 87% of that number are parents who are worried about injuries they can get from these sports. While proper precautions are taken with coaching staffs to ensure your child’s safety, their teeth are a sensitive area that needs a little extra care.
Rather than rolling your child in bubble wrap and calling it a day (though if you need a break, we won’t judge you), we’ll give you some tips on how you can do your part in protecting your child’s teeth while they’re out becoming the next Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm.
Know the Riskiest Sports
Just because a sport is labeled as “risky” doesn’t mean it’s something your child should avoid. Driving a car is risky and we do it every day. Taking the proper precautions to protect their teeth especially when playing these sports can mitigate a lot of the risky-ness these sports have.
While all sports have their fair share of risks, certain sports have an increased amount of risk due to the nature of movement, equipment and way the sport is played. Sports that have the most mouth and face-related injuries are:
- Boxing, Wrestling and Martial Arts
- “Ball and stick” games like Baseball, Lacrosse and Hockey
With these sports, make sure you take extra care to provide your child with the mouth protection they need. More on that later.
The American Dental Association found that there are nearly 7 million sports-related injuries in children as young as 5 years old each year and 3 million teeth would be knocked out during a youth sporting event. While these numbers are staggering, unfortunately, parents are mostly at fault. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reported that 67% of parents admitted that their children don’t wear a mouthguard during organized sports and 84% of young athletes don’t wear a mouthguard at all because it’s not a requirement like other protective materials like pads and helmets.
Parents should understand that it is imperative for their children to wear mouthguards. Allowing children to show up to games or practices with no protection for their teeth is like playing with fire. Mouthguards are an affordable and accessible way to prevent a lot of common mouth injuries. So what kind of mouthguard is best for your child?
- Custom-fitted mouthguards – Dentists recommend using a custom-fitted mouthguard. Your dentist will make a quick, easy and painless impression of your child’s teeth and mouth and develop a mouthguard that offers maximum protection and comfort. Custom mouthguards, if taken care of properly, can last a very long time and can prevent a slew of emergency-dental situations.
- Store-bought mouthguards – These can be purchased at your local sporting goods store or drugstore. These mouthguards are either preformed or boil and bite. Store-bought mouthguards give very limited protection and injuries can still occur easily. These can be cumbersome and require effort to stay in the mouth and make it difficult to breathe properly. Store-bought mouthguards are not recommended by dentists.
Whatever you choose, be sure to check with your dentist and always remind your child to wear their mouthguard.
Understand the Injuries
Anything can happen when a child plays sports, but some mouth injuries are more common than others. Understanding the injuries and knowing your child’s situation is probably not unique will help when it comes to an emergency.
The three most common dental injuries sustained in sports are:
- Cracked teeth- Sustained from an abrupt blow to the face and ranging in severity. Colgate notes that this type of injury is 60 times more likely to happen when young athletes don’t wear a mouthguard. Symptoms include sharp pain, pain while eating or drinking or a missing section of the enamel.
- Fractured roots- Similar to cracked teeth, but instead of starting at the bottom and moving up, this injury has a crack that begins at the root and makes its way down the tooth. Symptoms for this are similar to cracked teeth.
- Tooth intrusion- When the tooth gets knocked back into the jawbone. This type of injury has a lot of complications that follow it, like damaged tooth pulp and shortening of the tooth roots. Tooth intrusion is a very visible injury.
All of these (and more) can be prevented by simply wearing a mouthguard, and while it’s not foolproof, it’ll cut down the risk of injury greatly. Consult with your family dentist, like West Chester Dental Arts, and learn more about how you can protect your child’s teeth during sports. Schedule an appointment today with the friendliest and most knowledgeable dentist in Chester County!