Play it Safe

Prevent Facial Injuries With Simple Sports Safety Precautions
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April is National Facial Protection Month and the Academy for Sports Dentistry (ASD), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), and the American Dental Association (ADA) are teaming up to remind parents, coaches and athletes to play it safe as they prepare to suit up for recreational and organized sports.

The mouth and face of a child or young adult can be easily injured if the proper precautions are not used while participating in sports or recreational activities. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the seven million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by children as young as five years old. Last year, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) forecasted that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events. They also reported that athletes who don't wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth. Yet, in a survey commissioned by the AAO, 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. This raises a question: if mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren't more kids wearing them?

The AAO survey found that 84 percent of children do not wear mouth guards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads. At a time when a good football helmet or hockey stick may cost $200 each, mouth guards can be one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they help protect jaws.

An effective mouth guard holds teeth in place, resists tearing and allows for normal speech and breathing. It should cover the teeth and, depending on the patient's bite, also the gums. Your dental professional can recommend the best mouth guard for every sports activity. A properly fitted mouth guard can prevent many accidents and traumatic injuries.

The dental experts at the ASD, AAPD, AAOMS, AAO and ADA urge athletes, parents/caregivers and coaches to be proactive as they head out this spring and stay safe on the field. The ASD, AAPD, AAOMS, AAO, and ADA dental experts offer these important tips:

Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports. Mouth guards can help prevent injury to a person's jaw, mouth and teeth and they are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury. Dentists and dental specialists can make customized mouth guards, which provide the best fit. Other less-expensive options are the boil and bite mouthguards, which are softened in boiling water to fit the mouth, and stock mouth guards, which are ready-to-wear but often don't fit well. 

Wear a helmet. Helmets absorb the energy of an impact and help prevent damage to the head.

Wear protective eyewear. Eyes are extremely vulnerable to damage, especially when playing sports.

Wear a face shield to avoid damage to the delicate bones around the eyes, nose and jaw. Hockey pucks, basketballs and racquetballs can cause severe facial damage at any age.