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Watch Your Mouth: Protecting Your Child’s Teeth During Sports

Posted 2/16/2016 by UHBlog

If your child loses a tooth during sports, do you know what to do? Ask us.

Watch Your Mouth: Protecting Your Child’s Teeth During Sports

When kids are playing active contact sports, parents must give much more than lip service to ensure their children’s mouths are fully protected.

“We constantly see kids who have cracked, chipped, broken, dislodged or knocked-out teeth from playing sports like basketball, baseball, lacrosse, boxing, wrestling, football and hockey,” says pediatric dentist Margaret Ferretti, DMD. “That’s why our pediatric dentistry staff urges parents and coaches to make sure every student athlete has the proper protective gear for their mouth.”

The best defense against dental injuries is a mouth guard, she says. These are plastic dental appliances worn over the teeth to provide overall mouth protection. Wearing a mouth guard provides a cushion during impact, which reduces trauma to the teeth, lips, cheeks, tongue, face and jaw.

“A mouth guard minimizes the severity of traumatic injury to the vulnerable hard and soft tissues in a growing child’s mouth,” Dr. Ferretti says. “We recommend mouth guards that are tear-resistant, fit properly, are easy to clean and do not interfere with speech or breathing.”

The three types of mouth guards available to student athletes are:

  • Custom-fitted mouth guards – Made by a pediatric dentist, these provide the most protection and comfort, as well as a better fit.
  • Stock, off-the-shelf pre-formed mouth guards – These are inexpensive, pre-formed and ready to wear. They often don't fit well, are uncomfortable and can make breathing and talking difficult.
  • Boil and bite devices – These are first softened in water, and then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your child’s mouth.

“We have done surveys with student athletes and discovered custom-fitted mouth guards are most likely to be used regularly by these kids because they feel the best and provide much better protection,” Dr. Ferretti says.

Although the custom-fitted mouth guards are more expensive than store-bought ones, they are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury – not to mention the stress associated with that injury.

“Losing front teeth can be extremely traumatic for a teenage athlete,” she says.

Although most student athletes know they should never play intensive contact sports without wearing mouth guards, there are times they do. If the worst happens and your child’s permanent tooth is knocked out – try not to panic. Instead, look for the tooth and seek immediate dental care.

“There is a great application for smart phones anyone can download called ‘Dental Trauma,’ and it tells you exactly what to do in difficult situations,” Dr. Ferretti says.

If you're able to locate the permanent tooth, pick it up by the crown – not the root – rinse it with cold water and re-insert it in the socket.

“Then the youngster should be brought immediately to a dentist like myself,” she says. “Or if it’s after hours, go to an emergency room for proper dental care.”

When a student athlete with a dental injury is brought to a University Hospitals emergency room, a dental professional is called to assist.

“A tooth that’s knocked out and not re-implanted immediately should be kept moist in milk,” Dr. Ferretti says. “The sooner I see someone, the more likely successful re-implantation can occur. The tooth needs to be re-implanted within an hour.

“Our goal is to make sure every student athlete always has an all-star smile,” she says.

Margaret Ferretti, DMD is a pediatric dentist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Ferretti or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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