Protecting Your Athlete’s Smile- Preventing Sports Related Dental Injuries

With school just around the corner it is time to begin your back to school shopping. Those trips to the mall and big box stores are looming near but as many of us know back to school shopping is not complete without outfitting your future hall-of-fame athlete, head to toe, with new gear. While the latest fashions are vital for their performance, safety is every parent’s number one priority. With sports injuries on the rise, it is important to provide your child with the proper protection this school year. The CDC estimates that high school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. With general injuries on the rise, it comes as no surprise that dental injuries are also on a steady increase. With more then 5 million teeth being knocked out from sporting injuries each year, dental injuries can be the most painful and expensive injuries acquired during play. Averaging $5,000 per tooth, a knocked out tooth can often come with hidden injuries including jaw and soft tissue damage and concussions. Dentists recommend the use of a mouth guard to prevent the loss of a tooth and your money. But with numerous options, what is the best fit for your sports prodigy?

There are 3 categories of mouthguards; stock, mouth adapted and custom – fitted. The most basic are stock guards. While they do provide some protection to the teeth and gums they often do not fit the athlete’s mouth properly and can inhibit breathing. Users of the basic stock guard often complain of the piece being too long for their bite and the rough plastic cutting their gums. However, it is the least expensive of the three options. When choosing a mouthguard make sure the wearer is able to talk without a marked difference in speech, and the guard stays in place when the mouth is opened. These qualities in a mouthguard are better obtained with the second category called a mouth adapted guard also known as a “boil-and-bite”. These guards also provide protection however, because of the nature of molding process the thickness of the plastic which protects the tooth varies and the guard can become misshapen. Additionally, the wearer can get burned by the extreme temperature of the water and plastic during the molding process. The third category is the custom-fitted mouthguard. While it is the most expensive of the three options, it provides the highest quality of protection and customization. Brands such as Defender Mouthguards allow for the most accurate fit and therefore the ultimate protection. Dental impressions are taken of the athlete’s teeth, the impressions are sent to the dental lab where those impressions are used to make a customized mouthguard to fit exactly to the athlete’s personal teeth. This mouthguard will fit snugly to the wearer’s teeth allowing them to breathe freely and to then actively participate in the game.

While dental professionals advocate prevention, it is important to know what to do if you or your athlete suffers an oral injury. Dr. Scott Billings, of Billings & Murphy DDS advocates to “ tuck the tooth in the lower front of the cheek to allow the mouth’s saliva to protect it and get to a dentist immediately for treatment”. If you cannot see a dentist immediately, Dr. Billings urges you not to touch the root of the tooth and to put the tooth in milk or water for safe keeping until you can see a dental professional. It is vital that you seek medical advice with in 24 hours of the injury to minimize permanent damage. Unfortunately, if a tooth is knocked out or badly broken it usually cannot be saved. This is why it is so important to use the best possible mouthguard available to prevent this from happening. So any athlete’s back to school list should include a protective mouthguard. Dr. Scott Billings DDS and Dr. Chris Murphy DDS, practice both general dentistry as well as cosmetic dentistry in the Kent Towne Market Center, in Chester, MD. They recently welcomed Dr. Jonathan Soistman to the practice. Dr. Soistman is a graduate of The of University of Maryland School of Dentistry. Defender custom-fitted mouthguards can be obtained from the Billings and Murphy dental team by calling 410-643-5500.