Usually, National Facial Protection Month comes in April. This year, with our lack of rain and unseasonably warm weather, we remind athletes, young and old, to play it safe when participating in recreational and organized sports.
We have already seen several dental and facial injuries this month due to baseball.
The mouth and face of a child or young adult can be easily injured if the proper precautions are not used while participating in sports or recreational activities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say more than half of the 7 million sports and recreation injuries each year are sustained by children as young as age 5.
Last year, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation forecast that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events. The foundation reported that athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth. Yet in a survey commissioned by the American Association of Orthodontists, 67 percent of parents say their children do not wear mouth guards during organized sports. This raises a question: If mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive way to dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?
The following important tips to prevent or minimize injury are offered by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Association of Orthodontists and the American Dental Association. It’s our hope that athletes, parents and coaches will be proactive in avoiding injuries this spring and that they will stay safe on the field.
▪ Wear a mouth guard when playing sports that involve contact with others or a ball or puck. Mouth guards can help prevent injury to a person’s jaw, mouth and teeth and they are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair traumatic injuries. A mouth guard holds teeth in place, resists tearing and allows for normal speech and breathing.
▪ Wear a helmet when appropriate. Helmets absorb the energy of impacts and help prevent damage to the head.
▪ Wear protective eyewear. Eyes are extremely vulnerable to damage during games.
▪ Wear a face shield to avoid damage to delicate bones around the eyes, nose and jaw. Baseballs, basketballs, racquetballs and other objects can cause severe facial damage at any age.
Youth sports associations and coaches should consider having a team dentist to deal with any traumatic mouth injuries. Parents should establish their children with a dentist of record who will be available for dental injuries.
When injuries such as a knocked-out tooth occur:
▪ Find the tooth and hold only by the crown.
▪ Seek immediate help from a dentist. Most teeth can be reimplanted if cared for properly and are reimplanted quickly.
▪ Rinse debris from the tooth but do not rub; avoid any contact with the root.
▪ Do not allow the tooth to dry; store in milk or saline if necessary.
▪ Replace tooth in the socket. Cover with gauze and bite down to stabilize.
Treatment for dental injuries is best sought in a dental office. Modesto hospitals do not have full-time, on-call coverage for dental problems, and most physicians are not trained to take care of dental injuries. Additionally, hospitals do not have adequate radiographic equipment for diagnosis or the materials needed to treat dental injuries.
Dr. Cadra, DMD, FACS, and Dr. Barber, DDS, practice oral and maxillofacial surgery along with Dr. Stan Baker in Modesto.