kids sportsSpring is here, and the opportunities for kids to play sports or get involved in recreational activities will improve with better weather. While being active and getting regular movement is a healthy choice for kids and families, it’s important to know what to do if your child has a dental emergency that results from a sports injury or even simple play.

Every year 20 million U.S. children participate in sports programs, and it’s estimated that another 80 million are involved in some kind of unsupervised sports or play. Americans suffer on average 15 million sports-related dental injuries annually and lose 5 million teeth. While your child may only have a 10 percent chance of suffering a dental injury in a single year, the risk rises to 45 percent over the course of a lifetime. Some of those dental problems will be negligible and will heal with minimal treatment, but others can be quite costly and painful.

Boys and men are about twice as likely as girls and women to suffer a dental problem such as tooth injury or loss due to a sports injury. While it’s become common and often mandatory for students to wear mouthguards and other protective gear when practicing or playing football, when it comes to other sports such as baseball, soccer, and basketball, few do.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends all youth wear a mouthguard while participating in any organized sporting activity. Studies have shown that, for boys, the highest number of orofacial injuries occurred when they were wrestling or playing basketball. For girls, it was basketball and field hockey. One Texas study surveyed 122,000 male and female athletes and recorded the number and type of injuries in football, soccer, and basketball. Researchers found that football had the lowest number of sustained dental injuries, due to the increased gear football players were required to wear.

What kinds of injuries are common?

  • Soft tissue injuries of the brow, cheek, lips, and chin
  • Fractures of the facial bones
  • TMJ injuries
  • Tooth intrusion and extrusion
  • Crown and root fractures
  • Tooth avulsion

While it is, of course, essential that an athlete with a serious dental injury see a dentist quickly, the primary way to minimize dental injury is prevention. This is done by using mouthguards and headgear regularly. Interestingly enough children who come from more affluent backgrounds often wear mouthguards and headgear less often than children who come from poorer backgrounds.

If you or your child have questions about which sports may be higher risk for dental injuries, please do not hesitate to ask us at Dental Associates of West Michigan. We will be happy to let you know which measures to take and which types of protective gear work best to keep athletes safe while they are on the playing field or court. Have fun this spring, summer, and fall, but remember to take good care of your teeth. You’ll need them for a lifetime!