Sports Safety for Kids Mouths & Orthodontic Emergencies

Trenton Elkins June 25, 2022

Sports provide a variety of benefits for kids. From encouraging exercise in a fun and educational environment to teaching important life skills like time management, dedication, and teamwork. When your kids are out on the field, you want to make sure their winning smiles are safe.

The risk of a ball or body part to the mouth is always there in sports, regardless of the age of the athletes. You want to see your child smiling when they land a goal or score a basket, and you don’t want one misfire to prevent that. If your child has braces, a retainer, or clean aligners, they need adequate protection to avoid injuries and permanent mouth damage.

Clauss Orthodontics wants to keep your kids safe and on the field. Our experienced team is prepared for any pit-stop your superstar kids need, whether it’s cut lips to broken appliances from sports-related injuries. We want to help your kids avoid tooth and mouth injuries so they can keep their heads in the game. The solution can be as simple as using protective gear.

Sports and Dental Injuries

40% of all dental injuries in the United States are sports-related. You may expect mouth injuries in sports with lots of high-speed contact and collision. However, sports-related accidents can happen regardless of what the athletes are playing! A fall during a solo sport like skateboarding can result in a chipped tooth or broken bracket.

Our young superstars at Clauss Orthodontics can continue to play sports even during treatment. However, it’s important to check your child’s appliances immediately if they have an accident while playing. If the appliances look damaged or your child’s teeth are loose or falling, schedule an appointment for repair as soon as possible.

A quick assessment and early treatment are our number one goal. The most common injuries we see are tooth fractures, commonly referred to as a “chipped tooth,” and soft tissue lacerations or cuts on your gums, tongue, or cheeks due to direct impact to or with the area. As we check for these types of injuries, we examine the motion of your jaw to address any jaw dislocation. Some patients may experience more severe oral health injuries such as luxation. A tooth can be displaced but still in the socket or even an avulsion in which the tooth becomes wholly dislocated. 

Sports-Related Mouth Protection

According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Orthodontists, 99% of parents with children playing organized sports believe mouthguards should be required to play. However, close to 40% of those parents said their children never wear one for practice or games. 

If your child isn’t already used to wearing a mouthguard, it can be challenging to help them get started and get into the habit of keeping it on before a game. Still, it is one of the more inexpensive ways to protect your child’s teeth, tongue, gums, and cheeks from trauma during their extra-curricular activities. 

Orofacial injuries are a risk for participants of all ages, genders, and skill levels. Whether it’s organized and unorganized sports, at recreational and competitive levels, at school, or in kids’ leagues. While most dental injuries are sustained during collision and contact sports, they are prevalent in limited-contact, non-contact, and high-velocity activities.

The American Dental Association recommends the use of a properly fitting mouthguard in the following activities:

Contact/Collision Sports

  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Combat Sports
  • Football
  • Handball
  • Hockey (Ice and Field)
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial Arts
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Water Polo
  • Wrestling

Limited-Contact and Other Sports

  • Acrobatics
  • Baseball
  • Bicycling
  • Equestrian Events
  • Field Events
  • Gymnastics
  • Inline Skating
  • Racquetball
  • Shot-Putting
  • Skateboarding

Sports Safety for Kids Mouths & Orthodontic Emergencies

Choosing and Caring for your Mouthguards

Mouthguards come in many different options. According to the ADA Council of Scientific Affairs and Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, an ideal mouthguard should:

  • Be adequately fitted to the wearer’s mouth and accurately adapted to their oral structures
  • Be made of resilient material approved by the FDA and cover all remaining teeth on one arch
  • Stay in place comfortably and securely
  • Be physiologically compatible with the wearer
  • Be easy to clean
  • Have high-impact energy absorption to reduce or limit transmitted forces upon impact

If your child is undergoing orthodontic treatment, talk with one of our orthodontists to ensure the mouthguard will fit over their appliances and not damage the device or harm your mouth if an impact occurs. 

Your child will know they have a good fit if it is comfortable, offers adequate coverage, and doesn’t interfere with speaking or breathing. The three most common types of mouthguards are stock (also called “pre-made”), custom-made, and mouth-formed. Let’s take a look at each of these options:

Stock Mouthguards

Also referred to as “pre-made mouthguards,” this option is the most common mouthguard due to availability. You are likely to find it in a sporting goods store. These mouthguards come in various sizes and colors to suit as many wearers as possible. However, the stock mouthguard is considered the least effective option because it has a generic design that is not one-size-fits-all for every mouth. This gives it an improper fit and requires the mouth to be shut to keep it in place. 

Custom-made Mouthguards

Custom-made mouthguards are created in a dental office or orthodontic lab from individual patient impressions using thermoforming techniques to be fully customized and provide wearers the best fit to adapt to your mouth. This is often the most expensive option for oral protection, but the balanced occlusion and maximized tooth contact significantly reduce the risk of the mouthguard becoming displaced while playing sports.

Mouth-formed Mouthguards

Also referred to as “boil-and-bite,” these mouthguards are designed to be warmed in water briefly to become permeable and then cooled slightly to be placed in the mouth and bitten down onto creating a customized fitting. These can be usually found in sporting goods stores or online. A dental professional may help facilitate the proper forming around dental appliances in some cases. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions precisely to ensure adequate heating and molding of the thermoplastic material, and avoid improper shaping creating a poorly fitted device with diminished protection.

Orthodontic Emergencies

When your child has their first sports-related dental injury, we want you to be prepared. Remember to stay calm and carefully examine and take note of the damage to be explained to the dental professional. Contact Dr. Clauss for specific instructions on mitigating your injury until they see you in the office. Here are some of the more common injuries we see and how to handle them best.

Fractured Tooth

When this happens, it can seem far scarier than the reality of the experience. To stabilize the broken or chipped tooth and control any bleeding, you can bite gently on a towel as you head to your dentist. If the tooth piece has come out of the mouth completely, it can be transported in milk, under your tongue, or wrapped in saline-soaked gauze. 

Missing Tooth

If the whole tooth has come out of the socket, do not touch the roots and pick the tooth up by the crown. Rinse it in water and place the tooth back into the socket it came from, gently biting down on a towel to hold it in place as you head to the emergency dentist. Believe it or not, a tooth placed back into the socket within 5 minutes of ejection can be permanently saved. 

Extruded or Laterally Displaced Tooth 

This injury will look like a tooth is longer than usual and often appears with the displaced tooth being pushed back or pulled forward. To reposition this tooth, place firm but precise pressure on it. This process can be painful and is best performed by a dental professional. 

Intruded Tooth

If the tooth looks like it’s shorter than usual, it’s possible it has been pushed into the bone and become intruded. This is a painful experience and requires an immediate visit to an emergency dentist. Do not attempt to pull the tooth out or reposition the tooth. 

These are the most common dental emergencies children have in sports. However, these are not all possibilities. Make sure you get to your dentist as soon as possible after an injury. Your dentist or orthodontist can remedy many mouth injuries caught in the first couple of hours without risk of permanent damage. If your child develops a fever, has trouble breathing or swallowing, or their bleeding doesn’t stop after about ten minutes of pressure, it could be a more serious problem, and your child should be brought to the closest emergency room.

Sports Safety for Kids Mouths & Orthodontic Emergencies

Trust the experts at Clauss Orthodontics

A smile like yours deserves the right team to get it just right. Whether you’re looking for braces, aligners, or just want to know more, we’ve got you covered. If you or someone you love is considering orthodontic treatment, we want to provide the proper information and treatment to help you along. Our experienced team at Clauss Orthodontics in Watertown and Woodbury knows that an informed patient is more likely to participate in their treatment. If you have any more questions or wonder if you may be a good fit for Invisalign treatment, get in touch today to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Clauss to start your smile journey.