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Back-to-School Sports and Teeth

We often talk about how to prevent oral health issues with an excellent oral health routine and a diet high in calcium and low in sugar. 

But even with all the preventative measures you can take, your teeth could still become damaged this summer—like through trauma-related sports injuries. 

In an issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), it was reported that between 13 and 39% of all dental injuries are sports-related. Males suffer tooth trauma twice as often as females, with the maxillary central incisor being the most commonly injured tooth. 

Back-to-School Sports and Teeth
Back-to-School Sports and Teeth

As back to school and back to sports approaches, it’s important to review what to do in the event of a traumatic event to the mouth along with best practices when it comes to mouth protection. Remember, it’s not just sports like football or soccer that result in tooth loss, either! Swimming can also cause oral health problems. Don’t believe us? Keep reading to learn more, and to ensure the whole family stays healthy this next sports season. 

What to do after an accident 

It can be scary to sustain an injury to the mouth. First of all, there can be a lot of blood, which can send even the bravest athlete into a panic. 

If you or your family member are experiencing excessive bleeding from a knocked-out tooth or an injured jaw, or extreme pain from a toothache, it’s advised you call your dentist immediately. And remember, emergency situations should be addressed in the emergency room. Broken jaws or wounds that won’t stop bleeding need to be tended to immediately in an emergency department.  

Whenever you experience an injury to the mouth, it’s important to first examine where it occurred. Cuts on the tongue or inside the cheeks are the most common mouth injuries sustained. Bites of the tongue rarely need sutures. Even if they gape open a little, the cuts typically heal quickly. If the edges come together when the tongue is still, it needs no treatment.  

On the other end of the spectrum are serious injuries like those to the tonsil, soft palate, or back of the throat. Puncture wounds in any of those sites can cause a deep-space infection in the neck. 

After assessing the situation and determining that the injury is not life-threatening or an emergency, then you can rinse the mouth with a mild saltwater solution. Next, use a moistened piece of gauze or tea bag to apply pressure to the bleeding site. Hold this in place for 15 to 20 minutes. To both control bleeding and relieve pain, hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek on the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes. If these at-home tips don’t work, it’s important to give your dentist a call. 

Sport injuries 

Now that you know what to do in the case of an emergency, it’s important to discuss preventive measures so that you (hopefully) never have to get to these home or ER treatments. 

The #1 thing to do for back-to-school sports is ensure all athletes are complying with required equipment for their sport AND “best practice! Sports equipment, too. In football, only about two-thirds of athletes use all the recommended equipment. 

Getting even more specific, studies have shown that, once the mouth guard was required, the percentage of school football injuries to the mouth dropped from 50+ percent to >1 percent. Wow! Compare that to soccer, which still doesn’t require a mouthpiece in most schools. Only 7 percent of athletes choose to wear a mouth guard. 

Recent studies show that basketball had the highest oral injury rate across both male and female students due to hand and elbow contact to the face. The close contact of basketball players as well as the speed of the game increase the potential for possible orofacial trauma.  

And yet, even with this data, only 7 percent of basketball players wear a mouth guard! Due to this, the The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry now recommends a mouth guard for all children and youth participating in any organized sports. 

In addition to injuries to the teeth caused by direct trauma, did you know sports like swimming can also be harmful to your teeth?  

Yes, you may consider swimming to be a safer sport since contact is practically nonexistent. However, what you need to be informed about is the chlorine water. Your teeth can become discolored over time due the cocktail of chemicals in the pool. Also known as swimmer’s calculus, this condition typically happens in patients who swim frequently.  

Here’s the thing: swimming pools need to be kept at a pH level of about 7.5. If that level increases to more than 7.8, the water is in an “alkaline state.” Studies show that, when children and adults swam for more than six hours each week in an alkaline pool, they were at a higher risk for developing stained teeth. Poor pH balance in a pool can also cause the enamel of teeth to soften, making teeth more susceptible to damage and decay, as well as more sensitive in general.  

How to protect teeth 

Mouth guards are an essential piece of fall sports equipment, and starts by protecting the upper teeth. Their design is structured to protect from broken teeth and cut gums, lips or tongues.  

And there are several different types of mouth guards available on the market. First, there are stock mouth guards that can be bought at any sports store. They come pre-formed and are inexpensive. Unfortunately, they can be bulky and uncomfortable and make breathing and talking hard. This can make them unpleasant to wear, thereby decreasing compliance, especially among children. 

Next are boil-and-fit mouth guards that rely on heated plastic for a somewhat customized fit. These are more comfortable than off-the-shelf varieties, but can easily be messed up if the directions are not followed carefully.  

Finally, custom-made mouth guards offer the most comfortable and protective mouth wear for an athlete. A dentist will make an impression of the teeth and then use that to create a mouth guard. If you or your child are an athlete and want a better-fitting mouth guard, let us know and we will be happy to make one for you. Protecting your teeth and mouth is so important, that it is vital to not skimp out on this important piece of equipment! 

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