Youth sports offer numerous physical and social benefits, but they also present an increased risk of injury. Indeed, 13 to 39% of all dental injuries are sports-related. Whether your child plays football, basketball, hockey, soccer, or another sport this fall, take preventative steps to avoid dental emergencies and learn how to treat them if they happen.
How to Prevent Dental Emergencies while Playing Sports
Most sports-related mouth injuries can be prevented by following these tips:
- Wear a helmet: If your sport of choice requires protective gear, be sure to comply. This may include wearing a helmet for sports like football, hockey, and lacrosse.
- Wear a mouthguard: Roughly three times as many mouth injuries occur on the basketball court as on the football field. One reason is that football players are more likely to wear a mouthguard. This device can absorb the impact of a blow to the face, protecting the teeth and surrounding soft tissues as a result.
- Know the risks and play safely: Follow the rules of the game and avoid aggressive play that could increase the risk of injury.
Common Dental Emergencies from Playing Sports
It’s best to prevent dental emergencies if possible, but you should also know what to do if injuries occur. Here are some of the most common tooth injuries that athletes face and how to treat each one.
- Knocked out tooth: Rinse debris off the tooth, but avoid scrubbing it. If possible, place the tooth back in the socket and stabilize it with a gauze pad. If you’re unable to re-implant the tooth, put it in a container of saline solution, milk, or water. Then, get to the dentist as soon as possible to attempt to save the tooth.
- Displaced tooth: If the damaged tooth has twisted in the socket (luxation), been pushed back or pulled forward (lateral displacement) or is sticking out too far from the gum line (extruded), reposition the tooth with firm finger pressure. However, if the tooth is pushed into the gum and looks too short (intruded), do not attempt any repositioning. Stabilize the tooth with a gauze pad and go to the dentist immediately.
- Fractured tooth: If part of a tooth has broken off, save the fragmented pieces, if possible. Preserve them the same way you would with a knocked-out tooth. Stabilize the portion of the tooth that remains in the mouth with a gauze pad, being aware that the pulp nerve may be exposed. This means extreme pain could occur if the damaged tooth comes in contact with air, other teeth, or the tongue. Go to the dentist for further care.