Whether your kid is playing a pickup game of softball in the park, competing in a travel basketball league or battling it out in the pool during a water polo match, injuries are par for the course. And dental injuries, meaning injuries to the mouth and/or teeth, are a lot more common that you may think. So what are the most common dental injuries, and how can you prevent them? Read on for more information about the top three sports-related dental injuries and how to protect your kid’s beautiful and healthy smile.
The Three Most Common Dental Injuries
1. Cracked Teeth
If your child takes a blow to the face, they could end up with a fractured or cracked tooth (or teeth). Some cracks are barely noticeable and appear crosswise across the tooth. These are superficial cracks in the enamel that dentists often call “craze lines” and may not require any repair. However, you should still take your child to see their pediatric dentist just to make sure these cracks are indeed superficial and won’t have a detrimental effect on your child’s oral health.
If your child has a crack or split that begins at the tooth’s crown (the functional part of the tooth that is visible above the gum) and extends toward the bottom of the tooth, take them to see their pediatric dentist right away.
A crack in the tooth’s outer enamel can expose the subsequent layers of the tooth, which include a hard layer and underlying soft tissue, nerves and blood vessels. If these subsequent layers are exposed, there is a very good chance that your child will experience at least one of the following symptoms:
- Sharp pain when they bite down and chew
- Pain that comes and goes throughout the day and night
- Pain while eating and drinking, especially if the food or beverage is hot or very cold
There is also a chance that your child may not experience any pain; however, you still need to take them to their pediatric dentist for an exam and treatment plan. If there is a vertical fracture in your child’s tooth, there is a possibility that the crack extends underneath the gum line and an extraction and/or root canal may need to occur.
2. Fractured Roots
If your child is hit at a certain angle while playing sports, they may have a fractured root. This means that instead of the crack starting at the top of the chewing surface and moving to the root, it begins at the root level and works its way to the tooth’s visible surface.
These fractures are often invisible and may only be detected when an infection develops – yet another reason to take your kiddo to the pediatric dentist as soon as possible after a sports-related facial injury. The severity of this type of tooth injury depends on the location of the fracture along the root, and the sooner your child is treated, most likely with a root canal, the less likely they are to have to have the tooth extracted.
3. Tooth Intrusion
You probably associate sports-related dental injuries with teeth being cracked or knocked out; however, some injuries can push teeth back into the jawbone. This type of dental trauma is called an intrusion. Intrusions are more common in baby teeth, as children’s jawbones are not as hard as those of adults. If your child has a tooth intrusion, take them to their pediatric dentist immediately, as some very serious complications can occur, including:
- The tooth pulp being damaged beyond recovery
- Shortening of the root of the tooth
- The fusion of the injured tooth’s root to the jawbone
How to Protect Your Child’s Teeth From Sports-related Injuries
Considering all of the ways your kiddo can injure their teeth while playing sports, it is critical that you focus on preventative measures, such as the use of a mouthguard. A typical mouthguard covers the top teeth and is designed to protect against cut lips, broken teeth and other oral injuries. The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) estimates that athletes who aren’t wearing mouthguards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth while playing sports. Mouthguards are a must for kids who play any sport that involves person-to-person contact, bats, sticks or balls. There are three types of mouthguards available for your child:
- Stock mouthguards. These mouthguards are available at most sporting goods stores and are ready-to-wear right out of the package. While they are inexpensive, they may not fit your kiddo very well and might not be very comfortable to wear.
- Boil-and-bite mouthguards. This type of mouthguard is also available at most sporting goods stores; however, they provide a more customized fit than stock mouthguards. After purchase, you boil the preformed piece of plastic and then have your kiddo bit into it for a customized fit.
- Custom-made mouthguards. These mouthguards are made by your dentist either right in the office or in a specialized lab. The dentist will take an impression of your child’s teeth and the mouthguard is created to fit over the impression. Considering the customization and fabrication of these guards, they are the most expensive option. However, custom mouthguards provide the best fit and protection. And the extra cost may really be worth it when you consider that the cost of dental treatment for an injured tooth is exponentially more expensive than the cost of a top-of-the-line, custom-fitted mouthguard.
Your Child’s Pediatric Dentist is On Your Team
When your kiddo starts playing sports, it is a really good idea to ask for a consultation with their pediatric dentist for advice on how to prevent dental injuries. Your child’s pediatric dentist will work with you and your child and offer guidance on what type of mouthguard is best and if there are any other protective measures you should take to ensure that your child’s smile will remain strong and healthy.