If you or your little superstar is suiting up for sports this spring, make sure you don’t forget the protective gear! As the weather gets warmer, more and more dental patients arrive at the office (or even the emergency room) with oral and facial injuries, sometimes resulting in teeth that cannot be saved. The fact is that most of these injuries are entirely preventable with proper facial or head protection. In observance of National Facial Safety Month this April, let’s explore various options for mouthguards, why they’re needed, and what to do in the event of an injury.

If You Need It, Wear It!

This is especially true for contact sports, such as football, basketball, or soccer. Helmets and similar protective gear may be required by a particular sport, but oftentimes are merely suggested. As a result, dental injuries may occur in spite of wearing the required protective gear, so we suggest making an appointment with a dental professional to determine the best device for you or your child. For many adolescents, mouth guards may be difficult to fit or place due to orthodontics, so it’s important to understand your options and the relevance of a proper fit.

The most common varieties include:

Generic Commercial Guards

  • Usually made of rubber, plastic, or polyvinyl and sold in standard sizes
  • Available at sporting good stores, drug stores, and supermarkets
  • Generally inexpensive
  • Least effective form of protection
  • Do not properly fit in the mouth
  • Impairs breathing while worn and only stays in place if the mouth is closed

“Boil and Bite” Guards

  • As the name suggests, these mouth guards are boiled in water then fitted to the teeth by biting down after they are heated
  • Generally inexpensive
  • Available at many sporting goods and drug stores
  • Provides a better fit than commercial mouth guards
  • Tend to wear out quickly and may need to be replaced often
  • Typically not a good choice if the wearer is an orthodontics patient

Custom Guards

  • Available from a dental professional, these devices are made from impressions taken in-office and manufactured by a lab
  • The best protection available
  • Completely covers the teeth and better protects the jaw
  • Generally more expensive than other options
  • Does not interfere with breathing or speech

The most important thing to remember is, regardless of the device worn, take care of it and wear it as needed. Make sure to follow the provided care instructions.

If A Dental Injury Occurs

First of all, stay calm. Remember that most injuries occur when they’re least expected, so in a crisis situation it’s important to know what to do. The nation’s leading dental associations, including the American Dental Association (ADA), suggests these care instructions in the event of an injury:

Fractured or Broken Tooth

  • Locate the broken pieces and store them in water or cold milk
  • If you see a dental professional within 24 hours, it may be possible to reattach the broken portions
  • Take medication for pain

Displaced Tooth

  • Make an appointment to see a dental professional ASAP
  • If possible and without causing further damage or pain, try to reposition the displaced tooth

Knocked-Out Tooth

  • Time is of the essence; make an appointment to see a dental professional ASAP
  • Hold the knocked-out tooth by the crown (the wide part of the tooth) instead of the root
  • Rinse the tooth but avoid touching the root as much as possible
  • Place the knocked-out tooth in its socket within 5 or 10 minutes; cover it with gauze or tissue and have the patient bite down to hold it in place
  • Alternatively, the tooth may briefly be stored in cold milk 
  • Do NOT let the tooth dry out; it can usually be saved if these instructions are followed and the injury is treated within an hour

Jaw Injury

Depending upon the nature of the injury, follow these instructions:

  • If the teeth fit properly together when the mouth is closed, apply ice to diminish swelling and take pain relievers (anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, are best) as needed.
  • If the teeth do not fit properly together when the mouth is closed, immediately seek emergency care; gently align the jaws and immobilize them with a bandage under the chin and secured over the head
  • Apply ice to the area to diminish swelling

For a free printable download of what to do in the event of an injury, click HERE. These are extremely helpful for coaches and parents, as knowing what to do in the moments immediately after an injury to the head, neck or face can make all the difference in the healing process.

For a complete PDF document of the Fact Sheet for Parents from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explaining concussions and head injuries beyond those discussed in this blog, click HERE

For more resources, including coloring sheets on facial safety protection, information on sports injuries, and more from the CDC, click HERE

Austin Family Dentistry in Little Rock and Maumelle, Arkansas is a family dental care practice, offering family orthodontics, family dental care, and oral sedation. If you’ve been looking for a family dentist in Little Rock, AR, schedule an appointment with us today!

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