Anyone who plays contact sports is probably well aware of the dangers associated with their favorite activity, including the potential for injuries of every stripe. Even athletes who enjoy less risky pursuits like jogging, cycling, or tennis, for example, could experience injuries related to their physical activity of choice.
In addition to sprains, strains, and broken bones, many athletes could also suffer from sports-related dental injuries. It is estimated that around 13-39% of dental injuries occur due to playing sports. Some studies suggest that at some point, as many as 80% of children and adults participating in sports could suffer a related dental injury. Naturally, risk factors are higher with contact sports like rugby, football, basketball, hockey, boxing, and martial arts, but this doesn’t exclude the risk of injury in non-contact sports.
This isn’t to say you should quit your favorite sporting pursuits for fear of suffering oral trauma of losing a tooth, but you need to be aware of the risks to act accordingly. Here are a few things you should know if you want to prevent and treat sports-related dental injuries.
Practice Safety and Preventive Measures If you play a sport like football or hockey, there’s not much you can do to lessen the impact of contact with other players. However, you can take steps to protect your teeth and preserve your oral health if you are hit in the mouth or head. Many sports require participants to wear helmets and mouth guards for safety, especially in youth sports programs.
As an adult, you may not be required to wear such safety gear, depending on the league you join. This is especially true if you play pickup games with family and friends. However, you are responsible for your health and safety, whether playing with an established local league or having fun with friends. Depending on the activity you enjoy, you should consider wearing a helmet and a mouth guard to protect your oral and overall health and safety.
You can find suitable helmets and generic mouth guards at most sporting goods stores or online. However, if you need a mouth guard, you’re better off getting a custom fit at your dentist’s office. These custom dental guards are pricier than the generic variety, but they offer the best protection for your teeth, your jaws, and the soft tissues of your mouth (gums, cheeks, lips, and tongue).
If you can’t afford a custom mouth guard, a generic one is better than nothing, and you can find options that you boil to soften them and then bite to shape them to your teeth. They aren’t as good as a custom, fitted mouth guard, though, so if you play sports frequently, it’s worth shelling out the dough for the real deal.
Don’t Wait to See Your Dentist Any time you suffer trauma to the mouth while playing sports, and you need to contact your dentist immediately. For minor trauma, options like icing and over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs (that reduce inflammation) may suffice. However, you don’t want to assume that this is all you need without first being properly and professionally diagnosed.
If trauma to teeth is worse than you think, you could be at increased risk for tooth decay and even tooth loss. Your dentist needs to evaluate your condition as soon as possible to assess the trauma level and devise a treatment plan. Suppose a tooth is cracked or chipped. You might not notice until the infection has set in and further compromised the health of the tooth and perhaps your oral health in general.
Some dentists specialize in treating sports injuries, but you’ll probably want to visit your regular dentist first. In most cases, your dentist will be able to assess and treat your injury, and if the damage is too severe, your dentist can always refer you to a specialist. This is the best way to preserve oral health and prevent further damage.
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