Dental emergencies happen all the time, and just about anywhere. A child could come home crying with his or her mouth bleeding after taking a spill on the playground. A grown man could get involved in a fender-bender and end up with a missing tooth after slamming his face hard into the steering wheel. Dental injuries also happen even at home.
However, it appears that a lot of tooth and mouth injuries to older children and adults are sustained while playing sports.
Dental injuries in sports are common
According to estimates by dentists, between 13% and 39% of dental injuries are sports-related.
Although dental emergencies also happen to those who engage in non-contact sports like gymnastics and mountain biking, they tend to occur more frequently among those who participate in contact sports.
Basketball players are always at risk of being on the receiving end of a wayward elbow to the mouth. Football players, on the other hand, are tackled constantly and face the risk of falling face first or slamming their faces straight into those of others on the field. And for those who play ice hockey, one good hit of the puck right in the teeth could mean an avulsed tooth or two.
Then there are the combat sports, where getting hit in the mouth by blows and kicks are par for the course. It is not uncommon for boxers and martial arts practitioners to experience a dental emergency at one point or another.
While approximately 80% of dental injuries affect one or more of the front teeth, damage to soft tissues like the lips, inner cheeks, and tongue is quite common as well.
Preventing sports-related dental emergencies
While no one can actually predict and prevent a situation in any sport that could lead to a dental emergency, you can at least do something that would lessen or, if you’re lucky, even negate the impact of any accident you might figure in while in the heat of the competition.
Wear a mouth guard
One of the best and most popular ways of avoiding sports-related dental emergencies is to wear a mouth guard at all times while playing your favorite sport.
Also referred to as a mouth protector, a mouth guard typically does a good job of cushioning a blow to the face. Even when they are primarily designed to cover the upper teeth, its protection extends to the soft tissues of your cheek lining, lips, and tongue. By wearing a mouth guard while engaged in any sporting activity, you are, in effect, minimizing the risk of broken or knocked-out teeth.
You can buy a mouth guard off the shelf, or you can have one custom-fitted for you by your dentist.
Wear a face cage
Compared to other major sports, baseball has minimal physical contact, but the fact that it involves a solid ball traveling at 90 mph on average means a solid hit to the kisser could mean the loss of a tooth or more. That’s why a catcher is required to wear a face cage at all times. The same goes for a goalie in ice hockey.
Aside from protecting the mouth area, a face cage, also known as a face shield, can protect the nose, jaw, the eyes, and the delicate bones around them.
Wear a helmet
While it’s true that a helmet isn’t specifically designed to shield the teeth and mouth area, it can protect you from a concussion, which is far worse than any dental injury.
Take the necessary precautions by wearing any or all of the above equipment as needed because a dental emergency—or any medical emergency, for that matter—can happen at any time in sports.