Some Sports-Related Mouth Injuries in Children
School’s out & summer is here which means your children are spending far more time outdoors playing sports and attending summer camps. With sport, unfortunately sometimes injuries are par for the course. Did you know that dental injuries are more common than you may think? Our DeCare experts are here to discuss the top three dental injuries and how to deal with them if they occur.
1. Cracked Teeth
If your child gets a puck in the face with a ball or an accidental elbow, they could end up with a crack or fractured tooth. Some cracks tend to appear crosswise across the tooth and are barely noticeable. These are superficial cracks in the enamel that dentists often call “craze lines” and they may not need to be repaired. However, if your child gets hurt, it is still important to bring your child to their dentist, just to make sure that the cracks(s) are superficial and won’t have any long term negative effects on your child’s oral health.
While the vast majority of accidents result in minor damage that can easily be fixed by a dentist, occasionally the damage may be more serious. If your child’s tooth has a crack/split that begins at the tooth’s crown and extends toward the bottom of the tooth, take them to see a dentist right away. This is because the crown is the functional part of the tooth that is visible above the gum. A crack in the tooth’s outer enamel can expose the subsequent layers of the tooth, which include a hard layer and underlying soft tissue, nerves and blood vessels. If these become exposed, there is a high chance that your child will experience one or more of the following symptoms:
● Pain that comes and goes daily and nightly
● Sharp pain when they chew or bite down
● Pain while eating and drinking (especially if the food or drink is very hot or very cold)
Now, your child may not experience any pain but they will still need to attend their dentist for a check-up. If it turns out that there is a vertical fracture in their tooth, it is possible that the crack has/can extend underneath the gum line and a tooth extraction and/or root canal may need to happen. If it is a baby tooth it will usually be extracted in this situation and if it is an adult permanent tooth a root treatment may be performed.
2. Tooth Intrusion
Did you know that some sports-related dental injuries can push teeth right back into your jawbone? This type of dental trauma is called an intrusion and can happen occasionally with children. This is because a child’s jawbone is not as hard and sturdy as an adults. If your child experiences an intrusion, take them to the dentist immediately so the tooth can be assessed and monitored. Sometimes no treatment is required as the tooth can extrude itself back to a normal position however sometimes complications can occur like
● The tooth’s pulp can be damaged beyond recovery
● The root of the tooth can become shortened
● The fusion of the injured tooth’s root to the jawbone
3. Fractured Roots
On a rare occasion if your child gets hit at a certain angle while playing, they may have a fractured root. This means that instead of the crack starting at the top of the chewing surface and moving to the root, it begins at the root level and works its way to the tooth’s visible surface. Unfortunately, these fractures are mainly invisible and may only be detected by a dentist when an infection develops. This is why we would recommend bringing your child to their dentist as soon as possible when any sports-related facial injury occurs. Whether or not this injury is severe or not depends on the location of the fracture along the tooth’s root. This is why the sooner they are assessed, monitored and treated, with a root canal if possible, all the better as an extraction may be avoided.
While it is not possible to protect all children from having injuries including mouth injuries while playing sport it is possible to greatly reduce the chances of having mouth injuries if children wear mouth guards more often while playing contact sports. The GAA has made wearing mouth guards compulsory for children playing Gaelic games In Ireland, as the evidence suggests that Gaelic Football, Hurling, Rugby Soccer, Basketball, Hockey and Boxing are all high risk sports for dental injuries. Other leisurely activities like Rollerblading and Skate Boarding also carry some risk of facial and dental injury.
There are 3 types of mouth guard:
1. Stock mouth guard: These are the cheapest and available in most sporting stores and are ready to wear right out of the package. While inexpensive, they may not fit your child and may be uncomfortable to wear. They tend to interfere with breathing and speech and do not redistribute forces on impact.
2. Boil to fit mouth guard: This type which is more expensive is also available in sporting stores. They provide a more customized fit than stock mouth guards. This mouth guard comes in a ‘do it yourself’ kit consisting of a rigid outer shell and a soft but resilient heat or self-cured lining. Once this lining is softened in boiling water, the child bites down to help it take the shape of their mouth and teeth. However, by biting down too hard the thickness of the mouth guard can be reduced therefore reducing effectiveness. These mouthguards are more comfortable to wear than stock mouthguards are relatively inexpensive and do provide a reasonable level of protection.
3. Custom-made mouth guard: These are designed and made by your dentist. They will take an impression of your child’s teeth and the mouth guard is created to fit over the impression. These are the most expensive option due to the customisation and fabrication. These provide the best fit and protection for your child. The extra cost of these might just be worth it when you consider that the cost of dental treatment for a dental injury can be far more expensive.
When your child begins to play sports, it’s a really a good idea to ask your dentist for advice on how you should proceed with preventing dental injuries. Your dentist will work with you and your child and offer guidance on what type of mouth guard is best and if there are any other protective measures you should take to ensure that your child’s smile will remain a healthy one.
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