How to Help Your Sporty Kid Prevent Dental Injuries

Sports participation among children and adolescents has several benefits, from physical fitness to teamwork and leadership skills. But parents, be warned: the thrill of competition comes with the risk of injury.

a photo of a group of children playing soccer

More than 3.5 million sports participants under 14 get injured each year. Among these injuries are traumatic facial injuries, including broken jaws and chipped teeth, which can have long-lasting consequences. Even so, many young athletes do not use proper facial protection, leaving them vulnerable to injuries.


How Common Are Sports Injuries in Children?

These statistics are from leading organizations in the United States, including the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • All athletes, including children, involved in a contact sport are at risk of injuring their jaw or teeth.
  • Basketball and baseball are the top causes of sports-related tooth avulsion (knocked out of the mouth).
  • About 50 percent of sports-related head injuries happen during skateboarding, bicycling, or skating.
  • Sports accidents account for 10 to 39 percent of all dental injuries in children.


How to Protect Your Child’s Teeth During Sports

As parents or guardians, we need to ensure our children’s safety, especially when they engage in activities that put them at risk of injury. Providing them with the appropriate headgear is one of the most effective ways to protect our future Michael Jordans, Babe Ruths, or Michelle Kwans.

a photo of a kid wearing a helmet and protective gear

Let’s take a look at the different types of headgear and how they can minimize the risk of injury during sports:


1. Encourage Your Child to Wear a Helmet

Helmets are one of the cornerstones of protective gear in sports, serving as a primary defense against head injuries.

Whether your child engages in football, hockey, horseback riding, or skateboarding, a well-fitted helmet reduces the risk of head trauma. They absorb impact and disperse force, shielding the skull and brain from concussions and other injuries during collisions or falls.

Accompany your child when shopping for a helmet to ensure the right fit. Ensure the helmet fits snugly and sits flat on the head. The front of the helmet should sit low, approximately two finger widths above the eyebrows to protect the forehead. You can also ask for recommendations and assistance from the salesperson.

Choose coaches who enforce wearing helmets and ensure your child understands why wearing one is crucial. On days when you can’t make it to practice or a game, don’t hesitate to ask other parents to remind your child to wear their helmet if they spot them without it.


2. Provide a Faceguard

Faceguards, often attached to helmets, provide an extra layer of defense against facial injuries. They protect vulnerable areas like the nose, mouth, and jaw from impact, reducing the risk of fractures or lacerations.

Faceguards come in various designs, including full-face shields or smaller guards, depending on the sport and level of contact involved. Ensuring your child’s helmet includes a faceguard appropriate for their sport can maximize their safety during sports activities.


3. Protect Your Child’s Smile with a Mouthguard

Mouthguards, also called athletic mouth protectors, keep athletes of all ages safe on the field or court. They are suitable for most sports, including but not limited to soccer, basketball, wrestling, and even non-contact activities like gymnastics and swimming. The risk of dental injuries exists due to accidental collisions, falls, or impact from equipment or other players. Mouthguards act as a protective barrier between the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth, decreasing the risk of injuries like broken teeth, lacerations to the lips or tongue, and jaw fractures.

Dental trauma rates for sporty individuals who don’t wear mouthguards are between 48 and 59 percent. Investing in a quality mouthguard approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) is a small price to pay compared to the potential cost of dental treatments for injuries.


4. Take Them to a Dentist Every Six Months

Sporty kids are prone to chipping or cracking their teeth, which can go unnoticed. However, even a minor chip can escalate into deeper fractures, exposing the tooth’s inner parts and heightening the risk of infection.

Keeping up with your children’s dental care needs ensures the early detection and treatment of issues hidden in plain sight. Just like adults, kids should see a family dentist every six months.


What to Do if Your Child’s Tooth Gets Knocked Out

If a baby, toddler, or young child injures their gums or baby teeth:

  1. Apply pressure with a cold, wet gauze if it’s bleeding. If they can, have them bite down on the gauze.
  2. Offer an ice pop or use an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to reduce swelling.
  3. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
  4. Call a dentist.
  5. Watch for signs like gum swelling, ongoing pain, fever, or changes in tooth color.


If a permanent tooth chips or breaks:

  1. Gather all pieces of the tooth.
  2. Rinse the mouth with warm water.
  3. Contact a dentist immediately for an appointment.


For a knocked-out permanent tooth:

  1. Find the tooth.
  2. Hold the tooth by the crown (chewing end), not the root.
  3. Do not rub or run the tooth under tap water. It’s vital to keep the root’s surface cells alive and untouched for successful reattachment.
  4. If the tooth is very dirty, place it in a small cup filled with cold milk or saliva. Leave the cleaning to the dentist.
  5. For older kids and teens, try reinserting the tooth without touching the root. Ask them to bite on gauze and hold it in place until they go in for an emergency appointment.
  6. If you can’t reinsert the tooth, keep it in a cup of milk or saliva.
  7. Control any bleeding by using light pressure with a cold compress.
  8. Visit Kyrene Family Dentistry for emergency dental care in Chandler, Arizona. Our clinic is at 5965 West Ray Road, Suite #27, Chandler, AZ 85226.


For any other concerns, you can book your child’s appointment by completing our online contact form


The Bottom Line

Investing in quality protective gear for your children reduces the risk of severe injuries, including bone fractures, concussions, and painful dental trauma. Plus, knowing that they’re equipped to face any challenges can promote confidence and enjoyment on the field, court, rink, or wherever else they play. Just remember to inspect and replace their gear as needed to ensure continued effectiveness.