Sports dentists belong to a rapidly growing dentistry field. Sports dentistry addresses and treats injuries to the mouth and face that occur during competition as well as preventative steps to avoid injuries from occurring.
Billions of dollars are spent each year addressing sports-related oral issues – from knocked-out teeth to bent braces to fillings being loosened. Experts estimate that between 30 and 50 percent of these injuries are preventable if proper care is taken.
The benefits of physical activity are numerous: individuals are healthier, their self-confidence increases and they can lose weight. However, associating fear of mouth injuries with sports such that it dissuades individuals from participating is not beneficial to anyone. If the fear is a particularly troublesome one, sports-minded dentists can help reduce the risks by suggesting preventative steps to take for effective limiting of risk to an athlete’s mouth.
Making athletes’ mouths safer does not just mean having them wear a mouth guard whenever they are on the field. Lowering athletes’ risk of oral injuries also means having them use proper techniques in their sports, such as when tackling in football, to ensure that the risk of mouth and face injuries is minimal. Making sure that any equipment worn on or near the head is properly fitted is another key part on ensuring athletes’ oral health.
Parents, coaches and trainers should examine fields and point out unsafe areas that could lead to mouth and facial injuries.
In contact sports, such as hockey, football and boxing, a properly fitting mouth guard is of paramount importance to ensure mouth safety. But as more athletes turn to braces to perfect their smiles, more participants in softball, basketball, baseball and other sports are using mouth guards as well.
Protecting one’s mouth in sporting activities does not just save time, pain and money over the short term, but in the long term as well. The National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries estimates that a knocked out tooth that is not properly saved before getting to a dentist will cost the individual $10,000 to $15,000 more for the care of that tooth in the athlete’s lifetime.
Having an individual with some dental training at games and practices can help diagnosis and determine steps of action. Even having athletic trainers able to do a basic diagnosis on an oral injury can help in determining the first steps of action, which can be vital with such an injury.
A preseason dental screening can help determine if any special equipment or steps should be taken for individuals with potential dental issues. Knowing the sport, athlete and his or her dental history is important in making the right call about mouth-protecting devices and any preventative steps that should be taken prior to the season. Any dental work, such as tooth extractions, braces or permanent fillings, should be done well before the season so the mouth has a chance to heal and is not in a weakened state when competition begins. Dentists are the ones who can do this for our athletes.