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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 were rare.

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.

In a 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 with meals.”

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.

Exercise caution

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 water.

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.

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