Sports Dentistry

Avoid Injury to Your Mouth

Athletes are highly susceptible to mouth and dental injuries. Whether a star football player dives for a football, a wrestler receives an elbow to the jaw or a lacrosse player is hit by a ball, there are infinite opportunities for an athlete to become serious injured. Ranging from a cracked, chipped or broken tooth to gum damage, prevention is the only way to avert the high price tag that comes along with a serious dental accident. The first step is to consult a dentist who can give an athlete the best care plan possible. He will likely recommend some of the following tips:

  • Wearing a dental appliance called a 'mouthguard' is paramount to protection during activity. It is a plastic guard that simply shields the teeth should there be any injury.
  • Use a helmet or faceguard if at all possible. This gives the most protection in addition to a mouthguard.
  • Make sure to remove orthodontic devices such as retainers as recommended by dentist. Retainers will increase the likelihood of a serious injury. Also, special mouthguards are designed to go over top of braces.
  • Learning how to play a sport with specific techniques to avoid injury is key. Athletes may ask their coaches how to play effectively yet safely so they can continue a long career.

Saving a Knocked Out Tooth

Athletes should be properly educated by their dentists on the risks of playing a sport as well as what to do when incurring a sports dentistry related problem. There are specific steps that a player must take in order to save a tooth and even if done correctly, there are risks for permanent tooth loss.

What to Do When a Tooth is Knocked Out

The first step is to physically locate the missing tooth whether it still be inside the athlete's mouth or on the field. It is best to handle to tooth at the opposite end of the root which is the flat side that is visible within the mouth. The root end of the tooth is very brittle and can be damaged easily. Cleansing of the tooth with milk is only necessary if the tooth is dirty. Water can be used as a last resort and patients are advised not to wipe the tooth off with any type of cloth etc. If at all possible, the player should try to gently insert the tooth back into its socket. The process should be repeated every fifteen minutes until the athlete reaches the dentist office. If it is too painful or impossible to insert the tooth into its socket, it is possible to simply allow the tooth to soak in milk to retain its moisture until a dentist is seen immediately. The dentist will be able to install a splint for that tooth. In about two weeks, a root canal will be performed to remove the nerve endings which may cause pain under the once knocked out tooth. Soon new ligaments will attach themselves to the tooth and will preserve it. There is still a chance that the tooth can be lost due to circumstances such as the moisture of the tooth, damage to the root of the tooth, and the duration the tooth has remained dislodged. Any measures that a patient can take to minimize these factors will increase his/her chances of having a healthy mouth despite trauma.

Athletic Mouthguards

Mouthguards are by far the most superior way of protecting the mouth from athletic related harm. Used not only to prevent tooth and gum damage, they provide added protection against concussions, hemorrhages, facial and jaw fractures and lacerations of the soft portion of the mouth.

Mouthguards are similar to a plastic or rubber shield that cover either the lower or upper or both rows of teeth. While most mouthguards are bought from sporting goods stores, dentists argue that even with the wide variety of mouthguards sold, the level of protection that a custom mouthguard provides is far superior. Since not everyone has the same mouth pattern and overbite, the one size fits all motto puts an athlete at high risk for injury with the traditional plastic sporting goods store purchase. Further negative attributes of a store bought mouthguard include: not covering all of the athlete's teeth, bulkiness interfering with breathing, too thin of a lining and too loose of a fit. Also, because of these inadequacies, athletes are known to cut to shape the mouthguards which may also lessen the efficacy.

A custom mouthguard is created by a dentist using molds taken of the patient's mouth. The mouthguard is then designed for fit, comfort and function and is also constructed to have a helmet attachment in the case that it falls out of the athlete's mouth. A dentist can also compensate for orthodontia or dental obtrusions. A custom mouthguard can cost anywhere between $75 and$150 and is well worth the fee.

Sports Dentistry Facts

Sports dentistry is not widely known by the public, but it is by athletes. From amateur to professional, athletes rely on sports dentists for preventative and emergency measures. Some facts not typically known about the discipline are:

  • According to statistics, dental injuries are the most common injury sustained during sport participation.
  • Faceguards and mouthguards prevent over 200,000 injuries per year.
  • The use of mouthguards can reduce the likelihood of potentially serious and life threatening injuries such as concussions and head and neck injuries.
  • Teeth that have been knocked out during a sporting event cost in the neighborhood of $15000 per tooth to replace not including further dental complications in the future.
  • The cost is $5000 to restore a missing tooth including a follow-up visit.
  • As a whole, athletes have a 33%-56% chance of incurring a sports dentistry problem during their sporting career and a 10% chance of injury each athletic season.
  • The reason why wearing a mouthguard is so essential is because an athlete's risk is 60 times more likely to have a serious impairment if he/she is not wearing a mouthguard. Mouthguards are the number one preventative measure to ensure safety.
  • Mouthguards prevent against lacerations of the gums and the flesh on the inside of the mouth.