Sports Safety for Kids Mouths & Orthodontic Emergencies

Sports offer many benefits for kids. From encouraging exercise in a fun and educational environment to developing social motor skills, to teaching important life skills like time management, dedication, and teamwork. While your kids are out on the field, you want to make sure their winning smiles are safe. If your child has braces, a retainer, or clear aligners, they need adequate protection to avoid injuries and permanent mouth damage.

Central Massachusetts Orthodontics wants to keep your kids safe. Our experienced team is prepared for any problems your superstar kids may face, whether it’s cut lips to broken appliances from sports-related injuries. The solution can be as simple as using protective gear.

Sports and Dental Injuries

Here’s something to consider: 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, but sports-related accidents can happen regardless of what the athletes are playing. A fall in a solo sport like skateboarding can result in a chipped tooth or broken bracket.

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

Quick assessment and early treatment is our goal. The most common injuries our office sees are tooth fractures, also called 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 assess 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 from the American Association of Orthodontists, 99% of parents with children playing organized sports believe mouthguards should be required to play. Despite this, 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 start and get into the habit of keeping it on before a game. Still, it is one of the more cost-efficient ways to protect your child’s teeth, tongue, gums, and cheeks from damage during athletic 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:

  • Stay in place comfortably and securely
  • Have high-impact energy absorption to reduce or limit transmitted forces upon impact
  • 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
  • Be physiologically compatible with the wearer
  • Be easy to clean

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

Your child will know you 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 called “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 mouthguards are made in an 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 called “boil-and-bite,” these mouthguards are designed to be warmed in water to become permeable and then cooled 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 athletic kid 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. Then contact Dr. Giarrusso and Dr. Livanos for specific instructions on mitigating your child’s injury until they see them in the office. Here are some of the more common injuries we see and how to handle them best.

Fractured Tooth

To stabilize a 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 five minutes of ejection can be permanently saved. 

Intruded Tooth

If the tooth looks like it is now 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. Please do not attempt to pull the tooth out or reposition the tooth. 

Extruded or Laterally Displaced Tooth 

This injury will make a tooth look 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 most effectively performed by a dentist. 

These are the most common dental emergencies children have in sports, but they 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 permanent damage. However, 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 you should go to the closest emergency room.

Sports Safety for Kids Mouths & Orthodontic Emergencies

Protect your superstar at Central Massachusetts Orthodontics

Whether they’re on the field or the court, your child’s smile should feel safe while they’re having fun. Our expert team at Central Massachusetts Orthodontics is here to offer you a personalized treatment, a warm and professional experience, and exceptional results. Get in touch to schedule a consultation with Dr. Giarrusso and Dr. Livanos or to talk through your concerns with us! Your satisfaction is as important to us as your smile.