3 Million Teeth Knocked Out During Sporting Events
Encouraging kids to be active is essential to their health and well-being. Keeping
them safe when they get up and move is also important, and part of protecting the
body is protecting the mouth.
Put in a mouthguard
In 2011, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation estimated that
more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events
in the upcoming year. The organization stated that athletes who do not wear mouthguards
are 60 times more likely to sustain damage to their teeth.
An American Association of Orthodontists survey found that
84 percent of children do not wear mouthguards because they are not required to
wear them. However, they should be worn even if not mandatory. Mouthguards
help prevent chips, cracks, knockouts and other impact-related injuries. The
Academy of General Dentistry suggests adults and children wear them for
sports that present a strong likelihood for contact with other players or hard surfaces.
Such sports include basketball, soccer, football, wrestling, rugby, martial arts,
skateboarding, bicycling, inline skating, softball and lacrosse.
You may purchase stock mouthguards or boil and bite mouthguards at many drugstores
or sporting goods retailers. These options are less expensive, but they also tend
to be less comfortable, which means your child may be less inclined to wear one.
For optimal fit, you can obtain a custom mouthguard through your child’s dentist.
Take out oral piercings
Body piercings have become more common among young people. The Academy of General
Dentistry encourages teen athletes with oral piercings to
remove them—or better yet, forego them all together. The organization’s
journal reported that 1 in 5 oral piercings results in infection from contaminated
puncture wounds and athletes are more likely than most to develop infections due
to the increased blood flow and breathing rate involved with vigorous exercise.
A study from the Department of Oral Rehabilitation, School of Dental Medicine at
Tel Aviv University found that 15 to 20 percent of teens with oral piercings are
at high risk for tooth fractures and gum disease. The researching dentist, Dr. Lira
Levin, found that high rates of fractures due to piercings were not found in other
age groups and cases of severe periodontal damage in teens without oral piercings
If your child has—or wants—an oral piercing, discuss the risks involved and why
removing it for activity is critical. They may like how it looks, but chipped teeth,
fractures and infections will detract from his or her overall smile.
Rethink energy drinks
While sports drinks may help replace electrolytes during vigorous exercise, it seems
they are consumed excessively. In “Sports
Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?,” a 2011 clinical
report published in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that
while pediatric athletes engaged in prolonged, vigorous physical activity may benefit
from the carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes in such drinks, the use of sports
drinks is generally unnecessary on the sports field or the school lunchroom.
press release, a member of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness
stated that “For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water
is best. Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don’t need, and could
contribute to obesity and tooth decay. It’s better for children to drink water during
and after exercise, and to have the recommended intake of juice and low-fat milk
Another recent study published by the Academy of General Dentistry found the high
acidity levels in sports and energy drinks erodes tooth enamel. After only five
days of exposure, this irreversible damage was evident to researchers, the AGD reported
in a May 1 press release. Findings showed that energy drinks caused
twice the enamel damage.
Consider reducing your child’s pre-, post-, and during-exercise sports drink consumption.
Teach kids to limit them to their intended use—long and strenuous activities.
Even a mouthguard can’t protect against all injuries to the teeth. And, of course,
Chipping and other damage are not limited to contact sports. In an Academy of General Dentistry article, a past AGD president
says that swimming pool accidents are the No. 1 cause of dental emergencies in his
office. Frequent swimmers also experience staining from exposure to chemically treated
It all comes down to practicing care and safety. Remind children how to be safe
when playing and participating in sports. Remembering to walk on the pool deck,
watching where they run when playing in the yard, and not throwing the ball toward
someone’s face are all ways kids can reduce their risk of oral injuries.