Protect Your Teeth While Playing Sports: Prevention And First-Aid

Most dental injuries are irreversible. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we take care of our teeth and gums at all times. This is particularly true when we expose ourselves to the energetic and vigorous activity of sports. Our teeth and sports are just as important, especially for growing children. However, sports can lead to dental injuries. Some even say that you cannot exactly separate injuries from sports. We think it is part of the game. Nevertheless, our scientists continue to strive for an activity setting that does not endanger the well-being of our teeth. This led to the recent dentistry field involving sports dentistry to develop the prevention and treatment of sports-related dental injuries. 

Common Dental Injuries and Sports Related To It

The types of sports commonly associated with dental and orofacial injuries are contact sports. In a review study, researchers listed the prevalence of player injuries in several of these contact sports. Below are the results ranked from the highest percentage of players who have experienced orofacial injuries to the lowest percentage of players who have experienced orofacial injuries :

  1. Basketball: 80.6% of Professionals and 37.7% of semi-professionals
  2. Swiss Rugby: 39.5% of professionals
  3. Hockey: 33.8% of professionals
  4. Baseball: 27% of professionals
  5. Handball: 21.8% of professionals
  6. Water polo: 18.6% of professionals
  7. Football: 16.6% of professionals

Although you can argue that this is indicative of players from a professional standpoint, data suggests that a sizable amount of children have sports-related dental injury cases. In the 30 million children who participated in organized sports programs in the United States, researchers found that 10-39% of these children sustained dental injuries.

Intuitively, you may think that dental injuries are only related to the teeth. However, dentists also concern themselves with the facial structures of the body. Doctors distinguish traumas related to the face and teeth as orofacial injuries. Overall ages, these are the common injuries related to sports:

  • Soft-tissue injury: Abrasion, contusion, or laceration of the lips, tongue, or gums.
  • Fracture: Damage to the bone of the face. Typical cases are on the jaw. 
  • Temporomandibular joint injury: Although some orofacial cases do not always result in fractures, damage to the joint supporting the jaw may occur.
  • Tooth intrusion: Displacement of a tooth into the gums due to impact.
  • Tooth fracture: Crack or damage on the tooth. This is the most common dental injury.
  • Tooth avulsion: Complete removal of the teeth from the socket. This occurs in 0.5-16% of all dental injuries.
  • Orofacial trauma: Physical injury from impact, usually on the jaw.

Dental Protection During Sports

To prevent these injuries, you would have to gear yourself up. However, you should not only prepare your gear, knowledge for gearing up is also key to protecting your teeth appropriately. Preventing orofacial injuries while playing sports involves different gear such as helmets, facemasks, and mouthguards. The most effective, however, are mouthguards.

According to the American Dental Association, mouthguards prevent around 200,000 orofacial injuries each year. “Well then, I guess I’ll be off to buy one later.” You might think that it’s that simple, but there are many things to consider as there are different types of mouthguards. Here are the different types of mouthguards to help you choose which to use:

  • Stock Mouthguards: These are the default-sized mouthguards. According to the Academy of Sports Dentistry, these are not recommended as protective gear for the teeth since unfit sizes can lead to discomfort and irritation. 
  • Shell Liner Mouth-formed Protectors: Mouthguard lined with plastic acrylic or silicone rubber shaped based on the shape of the player’s mouth. It is subject to wear and tear due to biting.
  • Thermoplastic Mouth-formed Protectors: Mouthguard molded through the user’s bite. This is the typical choice for athletes.
  • Custom Vacuum-formed Mouthguard: Custom-fabricated mouthguard designed by your own dental professional. It provides sufficient protection in sports while also providing comfort when speaking or breathing. Shape is subject to deformation within weeks of use.
  • Custom Pressure-laminated Mouthguard: Currently the best type of mouthguard that can provide everything that a vacuum-formed mouthguard can, but with significantly less deformation when used.
  • Pure Power Mouthguard: Relatively new technology that takes into account the alignment of the temporomandibular joint, masticatory muscles, bones, teeth, and nerves.
  • Bimaxillary Mouthguard: Mouthguard that also protects against fractures in the jaw. Recommended for high contact sports such as martial arts.

Aside from mouthguards, there are other options to choose from. Faceguards and helmets are the go-to gear for overall orofacial protection. These gears not only protect from dental injuries as it also protects the face from injuries and fractures. Therefore, doctors recommend these for more high-risk sports. 

More than the gears discussed for orofacial injury protection, it is also important that the general public is aware of the importance of dental health to convince them to use these protective equipment. Although there appears to be an increase in general dental health awareness, people often overlook its relationship with sports. This should especially be important for parents with children engaging in sports. Parents should be the first to educate their children on protecting their teeth.

First-aid Treatment In Case Of Injury

In the case that you cannot prevent a dental injury, the best course of action would be to immediately contact a dentist if the damage appears serious. These are the common injuries to look out for and how to respond to them as first-aid:

  • Soft-tissue injury: Clean the injured area immediately. Press a small, clean washcloth on the wound if you observe bleeding. Call your dentist if the bleeding does not stop after 30 minutes.
  • Tooth Fracture or Tooth Intrusion: Contact your dentist immediately. Then, clean and rinse the injured area with water. Press a small, clean washcloth on the wound if you observe bleeding.
  • Tooth Avulsion: Contact your dentist immediately. Then, clean the injured area. If you observe bleeding, press a small, clean washcloth on the wound and have the injured person bite on the cloth. Retrieve the removed tooth and give it to your dentist. Do not try to put it back in the socket yourself. 
  • Facial Trauma: Call a doctor or an ambulance immediately.

We really stress the importance of contacting your dentist about these kinds of injuries because the professionals know the best response. If you still do not have your own dentist, call us at (480)-681-6570. Kyrene Family Dentistry will gladly help you take care of your dental health.