Sports Safety for Kids Mouths & Orthodontic Emergencies

Sports offer a variety of benefits to kids, from encouraging exercise to developing social motor skills, to teaching important life skills. While your young athletes are out on the field or the court, you want to make sure their winning smiles are safe!

The risk of a ball or body part hitting someone in the mouth is always there in sports, no matter how old the players are. 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 strong protection to avoid injuries.

At Windy City Orthodontics, our team wants to keep your kids safe while they’re scoring goals or making baskets. We’re prepared for any emergency your superstar kids face. Whether it’s cut lips to broken appliances, we know how to treat all kinds of sports-related injuries. The solution for many sports-related injuries can be as simple as using the right protective gear.

Sports and Dental Injuries

Here’s something to think about: 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 tumble during a solo sport like skateboarding or track can result in a broken bracket or chipped tooth.

Young athletes who visit Windy City Orthodontics can continue to play sports even during the treatment process. That being said, it’s important to check your child’s appliances if they have an accident while playing. If the appliances look damaged or their teeth are loose or falling, schedule an appointment for repair as soon as possible.

During an athletic emergency, your child needs a quick assessment and early treatment. The most common injuries our team sees are tooth fractures, also known as a “chipped tooth.” We also see 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 child’s jaw to address any jaw dislocation. Some patients may experience more severe oral health injuries. 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

A survey from the American Association of Orthodontists states that 99% of parents with children playing organized sports believe mouthguards should be required to participate. However, close to 40% of those parents said their children never wear one for games or practice. 

If your child isn’t already used to wearing a mouthguard, it can be difficult to help them get started. Still, it is one of the more inexpensive ways to protect your child’s teeth, tongue, gums, and cheeks from trauma during athletic activities. 

Orofacial injuries are a risk for participants of all ages and skill levels. Whether it’s organized and unorganized sports, at recreational and competitive levels, at school, or in youth leagues. While most dental injuries are sustained during collision and contact sports, they are common 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:

  • 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
  • Stay in place comfortably and securely

If your child is in the middle of orthodontic treatment, speak with Dr. Pakravan to ensure the mouthguard will fit over their appliances and not damage the device. 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 go over each of these options:

Stock Mouthguards

This is the most common mouthguard because of how widely available it is. You can likely 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 may not fit every individual mouth. This gives it an improper fit and requires the mouth to be shut to keep it in place. These are also called “pre-made” mouthguards.

Custom-made Mouthguards

Custom mouthguards are made in an orthodontic lab from individual patient impressions. They’re made 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

These mouthguards are warmed in water briefly to become permeable. Then they are 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 can help facilitate the proper forming of dental appliances. 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. These are also called “boil-and-bite.”

Orthodontic Emergencies

When your child has their first sports-related dental injury, we want you to be ready for the next steps. This can feel scarier than the reality of the experience! Remember to stay calm and carefully examine the damage to be explained to a dental professional. Contact Dr. Pakravan for specific instructions on mitigating your injury until he sees you in the office. Here are some of the more common injuries we see and how you can handle them.

Fractured Tooth

To stabilize the broken tooth and minimize bleeding, your child can bite gently on a towel as you take them to a dentist. If your child’s tooth has come out of their mouth completely, it can be transported in milk, under their 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. Gently 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. A tooth placed back into the socket within five minutes of ejection can be permanently saved!

Extruded or Laterally Displaced Tooth 

When this happens, a tooth will appear longer than usual. Often it 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 successfully performed by a dental professional. 

Intruded Tooth

If the tooth looks shorter than usual, it may have become intruded or pushed into the bone. This requires an immediate visit to an emergency dentist. Do not attempt to pull the tooth out or reposition it. 

These are the most common dental emergencies young athletes experience. However, these are not the only ones. Make sure you bring your child to the 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. Check if your child develops a fever, has trouble breathing or swallowing, or their bleeding doesn’t stop after about ten minutes of pressure. This could be a more severe problem, and you should go to the nearest emergency room.

Sports Safety for Kids Mouths & Orthodontic Emergencies

Get your best smile at Windy City Orthodontics

Your smile needs the right team to back it up, and we want to be there for you. Whether you’re just getting started on your orthodontic journey or looking for a new office to visit, Windy City Orthodontics is your home for orthodontic treatment. Patients across the Chicago area have improved their oral health and overall confidence thanks to our treatment. With extensive education and training, and experience as a former clinical instructor at the University of Illinois, Dr. Pakravan is up-to-date on the latest in orthodontic treatment and technology. If you are wondering if this might be the best path to your brightest smile, get in touch today to schedule your FREE consultation.