Most parents agree that putting a child in sports is great. Developing social and motor skills, promoting regular exercise disguised as fun, teaching essential life skills like time management, and the benefits of staying committed, are just a few of the benefits. But as the parent, you have a bit more to worry about than just driving MVPs to practice and keeping players hydrated. Learning all about sports safety for your child’s mouth is the best way to avoid orthodontic emergencies during treatment.
Your child’s dental health is a significant concern when there is a possibility of taking a ball or body part to the mouth while playing sports. Whether your child has metal braces, a retainer, or clear aligners like Invisalign, their mouth needs to be adequately protected to avoid painful injuries and permanent mouth damage.
Dr. Yu and the experienced team at Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics have seen it all, from cut lips to broken appliances due to sports-related injuries. Major orthodontic emergencies are pretty rare, so it’s unlikely your child will experience one during treatment, but we want you to be prepared just in case. Keep reading to learn more about avoiding mouth injuries and orthodontic emergencies while playing sports.
Sports and Dental Injuries
Sports-related dental injuries account for 40% of all dental injuries in the country. You may think high-speed sports that involve a lot of contact and collision are the only concern for mouth injuries, but accidents happen all the time. A fall in a solo sport like skateboarding can result in a chipped tooth or broken bracket.
Children in treatment with Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics can still play sports, as usual, just be sure to check their appliances and mouth immediately if they have an accident during their athletic activity. If any part of your child’s braces appear damaged or the teeth seem loosened, contact our office to schedule an appointment for repair as soon as possible.
When we evaluate and treat dental injuries, a quick assessment and early treatment is our top concern. The most common injuries we see are tooth fractures, commonly referred to as a ‘chipped tooth,’ and soft tissue lacerations or cuts on your gums, tongue, or cheeks due to direct impact to the area. While inspecting for these types of injuries, we also check the motion of your jaw to address any jaw dislocation.
Some patients in Portland and Windham may experience a more serious oral injury such as luxation, which is when a tooth becomes displaced but still in the socket, or even an avulsion in which the tooth becomes fully dislocated.
Sports-Related Mouth Protection
According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Orthodontists, 99% of parents with children playing organized sports feel mouthguards should be required to play, but close to 40% of those parents said their child never wears one for practice or games.
Getting a kid to wear a mouthguard may seem as tough as getting them to eat their vegetables. Still, it is one of the most inexpensive ways to protect your child’s teeth, tongue, gums, and cheeks during their extra-curricular activities.
Orofacial and dental injuries are a risk for participants of all ages, genders, and skill levels during organized and unorganized sports at both recreational and competitive levels. While most dental injuries are sustained during collision and contact sports, they are also prevalent in limited-contact, non-contact, and high-velocity activities.
Currently, the American Dental Association recommends the use of a properly fitting mouthguard in the following activities:
- Combat Sports
- Hockey (Ice and Field)
- Martial Arts
- Water Polo
Limited Contact and Other Sports
- Equestrian Events
- Field Events
- Inline Skating
Choosing and Caring for your Mouthguards
As with any decision you face to keep your child safe, there are a few options to choose from with mouthguards. According to the ADA Council of Scientific Affairs and Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, an ideal mouthguard should:
- Be adequately fitted to the wearer’s mouth and accurately adapted to their oral structures
- Be made of resilient material approved by the FDA and cover all remaining teeth on one arch
- Stay in place comfortably and securely
- Be physiologically compatible with the wearer
- Be relatively easy to clean
- Have high-impact energy absorption to reduce or limit transmitted forces upon impact
If you are currently in orthodontic treatment with us, consult with Dr. Yu to ensure the mouthguard will fit over your child’s appliances and not damage the device or harm their mouth if an impact occurs.
You will know you have a good fit if your child’s mouthguard is comfortable, provides adequate coverage, and doesn’t interfere with speaking or breathing. The three most common types of mouthguards are stock or pre-made, “Boil and Bite,” and custom-made. Take a look at the uses and differences below.
The premade option is the most common mouthguard and it’s what you’ll find in most sporting goods stores. These mouthguards come in various sizes and colors to suit anyone who might need one. The stock mouthguard is considered the least effective option because it has a generic design that is not adapted to any particular mouth giving an improper fit and requires the mouth to be shut to keep it in place.
Mouth-formed mouthguards are commonly called “boil-and-bite” because they are designed to be briefly warmed in water to become soft and then cooled slightly and placed in the mouth to be bitten down on, creating a customized fit. These can also typically be found in sporting goods stores or ordered online. In some cases, your orthodontist may help facilitate proper fit around dental appliances. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions precisely to ensure adequate heating and molding of the thermoplastic material, and avoid improper shaping creating a poorly fitted device with diminished protection.
Custom mouthguards are fabricated from individual patient impressions using thermoforming techniques in a dental office or lab. This mouthguard is fully customized and provides the best fit to adapt to your mouth while giving the most effective protection. While this is often the most expensive option for oral protection, the balanced occlusion and maximized tooth contact significantly reduce the risk of the mouthguard becoming displaced during high-impact activity. Dr. Yu encourages everyone who plans to play sports during treatment to consider a custom-made mouthguard to protect your investment in your new smile.
There will likely come a time when your active kid experiences their first sports-related dental injury. Remember to stay calm and carefully examine the damage so that you can explain it to your orthodontist. Next, contact our office in Portland or Windham for specific instructions on caring for your injury until we see you in person. Here are some of the more common injuries we see and how to handle them until your visit.
A fractured tooth is often far scarier than the reality of the experience. To stabilize the broken or chipped tooth and control any bleeding, you can bite gently on a towel as you head to our office. If the tooth piece has completely come out of the mouth, it can be transported in milk, under your tongue, or wrapped in saline-soaked gauze.
If the whole tooth has come out of the socket, pick the tooth up by the crown and be careful not to touch the roots. Gently rinse it in water and place the tooth back into the socket it came from, gently biting down on a towel to hold it in place as you head to the emergency dentist. As unbelievable as it may seem, a tooth placed back into the socket within 5 minutes of ejection can be permanently saved.
Extruded or Laterally Displaced Tooth
This injury will look like a tooth is longer than usual and often appears with the displaced tooth being pushed back or pulled forward. To reposition this tooth, you need firm but precise pressure. This process is most effectively performed by a dental professional.
If the tooth looks like it is now shorter than usual, it has likely pushed into the bone and become intruded. An intruded tooth is a painful experience and requires an immediate visit to an emergency dentist. Do not attempt to pull the tooth out or reposition the tooth.
While these are the most common dental emergencies children in sports are likely to face, these are not all possibilities. Make sure you get to our office as soon as possible after an injury.
Dr. Yu can completely remedy many mouth injuries caught in the first couple of hours without risk of permanent damage. If your child develops a fever, has trouble breathing or swallowing, or their bleeding doesn’t stop after about ten minutes of pressure, it could be a more serious concern, and you should go to the closest emergency room.
Trust Your Kids’ Oral Health and Safety to Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics
At Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics, we’re passionate about providing high-quality orthodontic care to patients in all sports and activities in Portland and Windham. While you’re in for your consultation or check-up, let us know about the sports your child plays, and we can get you the information to help you pick the mouthguard that will fit your child’s mouth and needs best.