How To Prevent & Treat Common Sports Dental Injuries
As an athlete, getting hurt is more of a rite of passage. Many athletes wear their scars proudly as reminders of the preparation and the achievements they’ve made over the years. Unfortunately, injuries aren’t fun. They are painful and could end your career. Luckily, modern dentistry has come a long way. Today, dentists can repair tooth injuries with ease, regardless of the extent of damage or sport played.
This is a big deal given the many dental injuries that most sports players experience. According to the American Dental Assistant’s Association, 5 million teeth are lost every year through sport related injuries (1).
Your Biggest Risk: Contact Sports
While dental injuries are sustained in contact and non-contact sports, indulging in contact sports increases the risk of dental injury (2). It is because of this that athletes involved in contact sports like basketball, boxing, rugby, and the likes are encouraged to wear protective gears, including mouth guards. This piece of equipment protects you from sustaining dental injuries to a certain extent. It’s importance is usually underestimated and unfortunately only appreciated after an injury has been sustained.
Sports Injury Prevention -Safety Gear: A Must-Have Accessory
As mentioned above, protective gear is essential in helping prevent dental injuries. But even more important, the gear should be the right fit and should be worn properly. Wearing a loose or tight fitting mouth guard may increase your risk of sustaining a dental injury as you indulge in your favourite sport.
Using a helmet lowers the risk of dental and skull injuries. However, for maximum protection, you should choose a helmet that fits you perfectly and securely. So how do you choose an ideal helmet?
First, you need to gauge the size of your head. Note that the measurement should start an inch above the eyebrow. Then, choose a helmet based on this measurement, and test it.
The type of helmet that you decide to pick should sit roughly an inch or two above the eyebrow (depending on its design) and its back should properly cover your skull. The cheek pads need to be a snug fit (this doesn’t mean they should be overly tight). Last but not least, the ear holes should line up with the player’s ears.
Wearing a mouth guard can help you reduce the risk of sustaining tooth dislocations, tooth fractures, and soft tissue cuts. Additionally, mouth guards help in absorbing energy from blows to the chin and prevent tooth concussions. (3)
Generally, there are 3 types of mouth guards that you can use;
- Stock mouth guard – this type is pre-formed and is ready to wear. However, given that they are pre-formed, they are usually not a perfect fit.
- Boil and bite – this type is available in a pre-formed shape. It can be customized through softening in hot water.
- Custom-made – to wear this mouthpiece, you will have to pay your dentist a visit as this is made-to-measure on a mould of your teeth. Your dentist will provide you with advice on the best fit as well as protection.
Limitations Of Stock Mouth Guards & Boil & Bite Mouthguards
Most of the reasons why some sports players are against mouth guards are usually down to the following features which are typically associated with stock mouth guards and boil & bite mouthguards:
- Poor retention (loose fit)
- Fear of swallowing
- Problems with speech
These criticisms thankfully are not associated with properly constructed custom made appliances.
Common Dental Injuries in Sports
Most dental injuries affect the front soft tissue and teeth. Some of the common injuries include:
Tooth knocked out
Commonly known as an avulsed tooth, a tooth knocked out is a serious dental injury. Luckily, it can be fixed, if you act fast. When a tooth is knocked out, the blood vessels, supporting tissue and nerves are damaged. These cannot be repaired and therefore root canal treatment is necessary. The bone often re-attaches itself to the tooth when it’s re-implanted.
Note that only permanent teeth can be re-implanted. To increase the chances of a successful re-implantation, don’t touch the root of your tooth. Avulsed teeth need to be stored in milk or in saliva in your mouth itself and you need to get to your dentist within a maximum of 30 minutes from injury for this to be considered a possibility. If the tooth gets dirty, rinse it with milk. Also, don’t wipe it with a cloth as it could get damaged further.
This is a pretty common injury that mainly occurs when an athlete suffers a blow to the jaw. The severity of a tooth crack depends on a couple of factors, including the amount of force and whether the player was wearing a mouth guard (mouth guards help to absorb most of the shock, thereby preventing tooth damage).
At times, a crack in the tooth may not be visible to the naked eye (unless you lose part of the enamel). Additionally, you may not feel pain except for when you feed on hot or cold foods and drinks or bite down on the tooth.
Generally, cracks are discovered during a dental check-up.
Depending on the extent of damage, the cracked tooth may not require treatment (very small chips or cracks within the enamel but the tooth remains intact), may need to be repaired with a composite build-up or by crowning it if the fracture is too large or, if irreparable damage has occurred, it may have to be removed and replaced with a dental implant or dental bridge. If the nerve is exposed due to the fracture, root canal treatment is usually required.
A tooth can either be displaced inside or outside its socket. When a tooth is displaced into the socket, the nerves get damaged. This means that treatment should be prompt. In most cases, the treatment involves splinting, surgery or repositioning.
On the other hand, external tooth displacement is treated with gentle repositioning and splinting.
Prevention of dental tooth injury involves using protective gear as aforementioned. When participating in sports, contact or non-contact, you should have protective gear, including face cages, helmets, and a mouth guard. These protective gear are important in sports that will have you moving at high speeds as well, including skating and bike riding.
Custom Made Sports Mouth Guards At Savina Dental Clinics
At Savina Dental Clinics, we prepare custom mouth guards that offer the highest level of protection and comfort, without impeding respiratory or speech requirements.
- Each mouth guard is a laminate of the highest quality E.V.A. producing the closest fit possible.
- Indentations of the opposing teeth are provided to increase the level of protection and will reduce/prevent concussion.
- Provision can be made for erupting teeth or orthodontic treatment.
- A vast range of colours and patterns are available for mouth guards – colour charts and posters available upon request.
- The sports player’s name is permanently sealed within each mouth guard. We can also incorporate non-copyright artwork within the mouth guard.
- Every mouth guard is supplied with a plastic storage container and care instructions.
Contact us today for more information about our custom made sports mouthguards.
Got Hurt? See your Dentist Right Away!
Dental injury treatment depends on how quickly you react and present yourself to a dentist. The sooner you see a dentist, the higher the chances of success of treatment (depending on the extent of damage). Also, as you prepare to see a dentist, be careful not to make the situation worse. Don’t apply pressure on the cracked tooth and always handle the knocked out tooth with great care.
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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.