Athletes often see themselves as indestructible. They get hit and are tougher for it. They break a bone and recover. But if you suffer an elbow to the mouth without protection your teeth could be permanently altered. Protective mouth guards protect athletes in contact sports, minimizing and even eliminating the risks of dental trauma.
An ER Doctor Admits His Mouth Guard Mistake
Dr. Travis Stork, ER physician and host of the TV show The Doctors, recently shared with Dear Doctor magazine that he wishes he could have a teenage do-over: “I would have worn a mouth guard, not only to protect my teeth but also to help potentially reduce the risk of concussion.”
As a teen, Stork played basketball and he received an elbow to the mouth that dislodged his two front teeth. Even though the teeth were put back in position, they soon darkened and caused him even more pain. Eventually, Stork underwent restorative dentistry, having both teeth repaired with dental crowns. He admits now that the injury was painful and costly – and it could have been avoided had he worn a mouth guard.
High-Risk Sports for Dental Trauma
The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation estimates that about 3 million teeth are knocked out in organized sports events annually. You might be surprised to know which sport floats at the top when it comes to dental injuries. Sports like football, hockey, lacrosse, and boxing can get rough, and protective mouth guards are usually required. Baseball is also a ball game that can lead to mouth injury. Basketball, however, is one of the riskiest sports when it comes to the potential for dental injuries.
Basketball is technically considered a contact sport, though far from a no-contact sport like golf or swimming. Body contact is common on the basketball court, and the injuries that materialize are often directly to the mouth. Immediate attention is necessary after any injury to the mouth.
Sports-Related Dental Injuries
The American Dental Association recommends that anyone who plays a sport that risks dental injury wear a high-quality protective mouth guard to protect themselves from dental trauma like:
- Knocked out tooth. Hockey players are known for sporting a missing tooth or two. This injury may be a badge of honor in this sport, but the rest of your teeth could suffer for it. Dental implants or a dental bridge can fill the space to keep nearby teeth from shifting to fill it, and to repair your smile so it looks natural and complete.
- Cracked tooth. Taking a blow to the face can crack or fracture a tooth, and players who suffer this injury risk long-term dental problems. Immediate problems include pain when eating or drinking, or the disintegration of the tooth, like losing part of the enamel shell, exposing dentin and pulp. This could result in root canal therapy and a dental crown.
- Fractured tooth root. It’s possible for a blow to the mouth to damage the root of the tooth first and travel upward to the chewing surface of the tooth. This type of injury usually requires root canal therapy to protect against infection and tooth loss.
An Essential Piece of Sports Equipment: Protective Mouth Guards
Off-the-shelf mouth guards are readily available and can be adapted to the general contours of anyone’s mouth, but the best way to get the maximum amount of dental protection is through a high-quality, customized mouth guard from your dentist’s office.
A professionally made protective mouth guard is snug-fitting, comfortable, and offers teeth the greatest protection during sporting games. Athletes also wear mouth guards not only to protect their teeth but as a cushioning safeguard against concussion in games and practices.
Schedule an appointment with Johns Creek dentist Dr. Mitul Patel to get yourself or your teen fitted for a customized mouth guard. Your teeth will thank you, and you’ll save yourself pain and expense in dental repairs.