We all know about the importance of looking after our children’s teeth to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, but protecting teeth in sports can be equally important. Sports, such as baseball, soccer, basketball, and even skateboarding, can make teeth vulnerable to damage, which can be costly and lead to long term dental problems.
In a ten-year study carried out by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), it was found that nearly 81% of the total (sport and non-sport related) dental injuries in emergency rooms were children ages 17 and younger. Also, during the same study, almost 32% of injuries in children at an oral and maxillofacial surgery department occurred during sports activities.
All sporting activities have some associated risk of dental and facial injuries which usually result from falls and contact with hard surfaces, collisions, and contact with sports-related equipment. Recreational activities including skateboarding, roller-skating, and trampolining also come with their injury risks. Some sports, such as high school football, ice hockey, and lacrosse, require the mandatory wearing of protective equipment, which have been found to significantly reduce the number of dental and facial injuries. Yet baseball and basketball, which currently account for the highest number of dental injuries in children ages 7-17, trail far behind inadequate injury protection.
The most common type of dental injury to children in sports is losing a baby tooth prematurely, which can increase the risk of complications such as eating problems and crooked teeth in the future. Other sports-related injuries can include injuries to the jaw or mouth that can lead to malocclusion. A malocclusion is a bite problem or misalignment between the top and bottom teeth. Significant malocclusions can interfere with speaking and eating, contribute to mouth breathing, cause teeth and enamel to wear prematurely, and can also affect the overall appearance of the face. Malocclusions often require orthodontic treatment.
Types of Protection
Although protective equipment such as mouth guards and helmets cannot always protect against certain mouth and soft tissue injuries, they can significantly reduce the number of facial and dental injuries and are much more cost-effective and less invasive than most dental treatments.
There are many different types of protective equipment available. The type of sport your child plays and personal preference will determine the best type of protection for your child. Helmets, jaw pads, and faceguards can protect well in certain sports and activities by absorbing the impact from hard falls and collisions. A properly fitting mouthguard can also safeguard against many dental injuries during sports. There are several types available, including:
A custom-fabricated mouthguard. This type of mouthguard involves using a dental impression of your child’s mouth and then fabricating a guard to fit. It uses either a vacuum-forming or heat-pressure lamination technique. This type of mouthguard is the most superior retention, protection, and comfort, but may not be recommended for younger children whose teeth are still growing and changing.
A mouth-formed, also known as boil-and-bite, mouth guard. This type of mouthguard is made from a thermoplastic material that is adapted to the mouth by finger, tongue, and biting pressure after immersing it in hot water. They are available from sporting-goods stores and drug stores and can vary in protection, retention, comfort, and cost.
A stock mouthguard can be purchased from sporting-goods stores and other retail stores. They are available in a variety of sizes and are designed for use without any modification. They are held in place by clenching the teeth together to provide a protective benefit. This type of mouthguard isn’t always the best option, as clenching a stock mouthguard in place can interfere with breathing and speaking, and can be less protective than other types of mouthguards.
If you are considering a protective mouthguard for your child, speak to your dentist for guidance and to discuss the different options available.
Children’s Comprehensive Dental Care in St. Paul, MN
To keep your child’s teeth healthy and looking their best, visit Hagerman Dental Care. We offer comprehensive dental services for your whole family. Our top priority is to deliver unsurpassed and compassionate care.
To find out more about our range of dental services or to make an appointment with our experienced and dedicated dentist, Dr. Hagerman, call us today at (651) 646-2392 or request an appointment online.