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Permanent Teeth and Sports: Keep Your Child’s Smile Safe This Season

When you think of tooth loss or damage, you probably don’t think your child might be at more risk of losing a tooth than you are. However, if your son or daughter participates in childhood sports including basketball, soccer, rugby, hockey, football and baseball, the risk for tooth loss is quite high.

In children and teens, trauma from sports is the main cause of tooth loss, necessitating restorative procedures, partial dentures, implants or other reconstructive dental procedures. Here’s what every parent needs to know about encouraging and providing the needed protection for permanent teeth.

Use Mouth Guards and Face Protection

The most essential protection for a child who is playing sports is a mouth guard. It’s estimated that without a mouth guard, a person is 60 times more likely to crack or lose a tooth when playing sports.

Mouth guards are mandatory in some sports, like football, but other sports do not require them. However, concerned parents should encourage their use anyway, especially in sports that have a high risk.

For example, softball and baseball have little face protection, but getting a ball or bat to the teeth could be catastrophic for your child’s permanent teeth. However, don’t think that mouth guards are only for team sports. Even sports like gymnastics and ice skating can be hazardous for teeth.

Custom mouth guards are the best for very active children who are involved in sports. They fit better and are less cumbersome than generic mouth guards from a sports store. Speak with your dentist about getting fitted for a mouth guard, and encourage your child to wear it during practice as well as during competitions or games.

If you can’t get a custom guard, a bite guard from a sports store is still preferable to having no protection. These guards come in different sizes, so you can choose the one that fits your child’s mouth the best.

When your child plays a sport that does not allow a mouth guard, look into other forms of protection. Some sports may allow helmets with a grill on the lower portion. If your child is a beginner in a high-speed sport such as speed skating, cycling or rollerblading, these helmets can help to reduce the incidence of dental injuries during slips and falls.

Avoid Injuries From Decay

Staying active in sports is one of the best ways to keep your child’s body fit and healthy. However, without the right precautions, playing sports can harm overall dental health. Be sure that:

  • Your child rinses out his or her mouth after drinking sports drinks. The sugar and acidity of these drinks can accelerate tooth decay.
  • Your child has enough water. Dehydration dries out the mouth. Without saliva to prevent bacteria from settling on the teeth, the bacteria can break down protective enamel more quickly.
  • You encourage healthy snacks such as fruits, vegetables and cheeses instead of crackers, sweet granola bars and candy. Active kids have quick metabolisms, so snacking is often hard to prevent. But healthy snacks that have a low sugar content will help reduce the risk of cavities.

As a bonus, strong, healthy teeth are less likely to become injured.

Know How to Save Teeth

Even with the best caution, accidents still happen; your child might still experience a tooth injury. Here’s what you need to know about saving teeth.

Use First Aid

If a tooth is knocked out, the best thing to do is:

  • Clean the tooth if it is dirty. Simple tap water will do.
  • Avoid touching the tooth by the root. Only hold the crown (the part that you can normally see when a person smiles).
  • Put the tooth back into the socket as quickly as possible. If that is not possible, store the tooth in a cup of saliva or milk. Do not use water.

Losing a permanent tooth is a dental emergency, and you should take your child to a restoration dentist right away. If the tooth can be repaired and placed back in the mouth expeditiously, the tooth might not die.

If a tooth is chipped, cracked or loose in the socket, your child will still need dental care. If the interior of the tooth is exposed, cover the tooth with a clean cloth and try to keep the area around the tooth clean. Usually, teeth with fractures that extend to the roots will need root canals and crowns.

Rely on Your Dentist

Finally, it’s important to realize that not all tooth injuries are immediately noticeable. However, even small cracks or chips from sports trauma should be seen by a dentist. Some cracks go deep, but they are not visible to the naked eye.

Make it a habit to get a quick check-up with the dentist after your child has a mouth injury, just to make sure everything is okay. When deep cracks or chips are not treated, the tooth can become infected and abscess.

For more information on keeping your child’s teeth safe this season, contact Northwest Dental Services and Implant Center.

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