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How to Protect Your Child’s Teeth During Sports

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If your child plays sports, you have probably worried at one time or another about the possibility of an injury like a sprain or a broken bone. But, if you’re like most parents, the last thing on your mind when rooting for your child on the playing field is whether his or her teeth are adequately protected. Just as with other parts of the body, the mouth and face can also be susceptible to injury during youth sports, especially those sports that involve contact. Sports like soccer, football, basketball, hockey, wrestling and diving can all result in damage to teeth. In fact, more than 3 million teeth were knocked out in youth sporting events in the United States last year, according to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF). And, children wearing braces have a slightly higher risk of oral injuries, including mouth lacerations, if their braces are hit by a ball or another player.

Mouth Guards Protect Teeth

Injuries to the teeth can be prevented by wearing a mouth guard, but many children don’t wear mouth guards while participating in sports. During a survey conducted by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. The NYSSF says that athletes who do not wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to sustain damage to their teeth.

Why Many Kids Don’t Wear Mouth Guards

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? The AAO survey showed that 84 percent of children that do not wear mouth guards while on the playing field are not required to wear them, even if they are required to wear other protective materials. Even if wearing a mouth guard is not required, it is still a smart move. Mouth guards can be one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they help protect jaws.

How to Choose the Best Mouth Guard for Your Child

When looking for a mouth guard for your child, you need to make sure it holds the teeth in place, resists tearing and allows for normal speech and breathing. It should cover the teeth, and depending on your child’s bite, also the gums. If you’re unsure, ask your pediatric dentist to recommend the best mouth guard for your child. Many dentists can make a mouth guard that fits your child perfectly. A properly fitted mouth guard can prevent many accidents and traumatic injuries.

Prevent and Prepare

Even if your child wears a mouth guard, it’s a good idea to be prepared for a dental emergency. Practicing excellent oral hygiene by brushing three times a day and flossing once a day is the first rule in prevention. Also, see your dentist at least twice a year. Keeping a dental emergency kit handy will prepare you to immediately address common dental emergencies.  Designed for temporary use until you can get to a dentist, some kits contain everything you need to handle situations ranging from toothaches to lost fillings to dental trauma. Your dentist can advise you on the best kit for your needs. Being prepared will keep you from panicking and can help you handle the situation appropriately to minimize the damage.

It’s important to have a relationship with a good dentist who can help you take measures to protect your child’s teeth and who can also handle emergency dental situations. Prevention and preparation can ensure that your child — and you — can enjoy the sports he or she loves without worrying about injuries to their teeth. Learn more on the importance of dental health and schedule your appointment at The Schiff Dental Group.