Five of the nation’s top dental associations are reminding athletes of all ages to play it safe by wearing a mouth guard during recreational and organized sports this spring.
The Academy for Sports Dentistry (ASD), American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), and the American Dental Association (ADA) are collaborating to promote National Facial Protection Month in April. National Facial Protection Month strives to raise public awareness and remind parents/caregivers, coaches and athletes to play it safe while playing sports.
Research estimates that about 2 percent of all children or adolescents who participate in sports eventually will suffer a facial injury severe enough to require medical attention.
“A properly fitted mouth guard is an essential piece of any athlete's protective equipment,” says Paul Nativi, past president of ASD. “Mouth guards protect the teeth from being knocked out, broken and displaced. Mouth guards prevent injuries to the bone and tissues around the teeth. They also help prevent injuries to the mandible (lower jaw) and temporomandibular joint in the jaw. Tooth loss incurs a tremendous financial, emotional, and psychological expense. Protect what you have - wear a properly fitted mouth guard.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s Policy on Prevention of Sports-related Orofacial Injuries, sports accidents reportedly account for 10-39 percent of all dental injuries in children and are most often caused by direct hits with a hard object, such as a puck or ball, and player-to-player contact.
The dental associations offer the following five tips to help prevent facial injury:
- Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports: Mouth guards are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury, and dentists and dental specialists can make customized mouth guards that hold teeth in place and allow for normal speech and breathing.
- 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 scratched or bruised skin: Hockey pucks, basketballs and racquetballs can cause severe facial damage at any age.
- Make protective gear mandatory for all sports: Athletes who participate in football, hockey and boxing are required to wear mouth guards. Mouth guards have been proven to significantly decrease the risk of oral injuries, and should be considered standard in all sports, particularly:
- equestrian events
- field events
- field hockey
- ice hockey
- inline skating
- martial arts
- shot put
- water polo