Top 5 Things to Know About Sports Related Dental Injury
- Trauma to the mouth is one of the more common head injuries in sports. Students are participating by record numbers in sports that have longer, more intensive competitive seasons. Our area is especially rich with teens who compete in contact sports, often on the grueling ‘travel team’ schedule. Adults are cross training and biking more than ever and a fall or injury is not uncommon.
- Injuries can occur in almost any sport. Statistically, basketball, football, biking, hockey, wrestling, lacrosse, and soccer have the highest prevalence. However, dental injury isn’t limited to any gender or age. Female dominated sports such as cheerleading and gymnastics also require physical contact and have a high chance of facial injury. In adults we have seen the increase in incidents from biking and cross training injuries. Senior citizens, a group plagued by balance issues, often try to support their body when they fall and end up with a facial injury.
- The type of injury matters. We all have that image of an athlete who comes up from a headbutt with a bloody mouth and gap in their smile. But tiny injuries such a hairline fractures, chips in the enamel or a split that segments the tooth are gateways to larger problems. Even a tiny fissure or chip can make your tooth less strong and lead to larger fixes down the road. More serious is a bone fracture, which may be present even if a tooth is not dislodged. If gone unchecked the damage to the bone can jeopardize multiple teeth.
- If a tooth is damaged or lost, try to save the piece for reinsertion. Keep the tooth in a small amount of liquid. Milk or salt water are common home remedies, but ideally you should use a physiologic solution to preserve the tooth. Small jars such as Save-a-Tooth are readily available and are manufactured to preserve a tooth for reinsertion. This is an inexpensive addition to a team’s first aid kit and extends the window for repair and reinsertion of a fully fractured or dislodged tooth. If you don’t have access to a physiologic solution, you can utilize milk, water with a tiny bit of salt and sugar mixed, or even saliva to keep the tooth moist. Be sure to keep the tooth or fractured piece clean. You can gently clean the tooth by rinsing or wiping gently (not with alcohol). See a dentist as soon as you can.
- If you have take a hard hit to the mouth but have no breakage, still consult with a dental specialist. Most people will seek treatment for a lingering pain or obvious fracture but if you incur a strong impact it is worth getting a check. Tooth damage can take time to appear. Your dentist has lots of way to repair a tooth, even one where you aren’t seeing or feeling the immediate damage. The most important thing to know when it come to dental injury is time is of the essence. Remember that permanent fixes may not be available until a child is 18 or older. Because they have not reached the full growth of mouth and jaw structure, it can be challenging to fit a permanent fix such as an implant. Prevention is key: a sports mouth guard is an important tool to minimize risk. A dentist fitted mouth guard is far superior to mass produced options and will provide the most protection with the most comfortable fit. Remember, a guard only works if you are wearing it!
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