The sports world has been in an extended timeout for the past few months as everyone confronts the global novel coronavirus pandemic. While we do love our sports, from basketball and baseball to the now-postponed 2020 Olympics, our health and well-being should always be our number one priority.
These are especially trying times for young people. Schools, colleges and universities are closed and “social distancing” has become the catchphrase of the new decade. Teens are sheltered-in along with their parents and the usual sports and outdoor activities that keep them healthy and energized are on hold indefinitely — a situation that is making everyone a little stir crazy.
As your Mission pediatric dentists, the team at Heroes Dental wants to encourage you to stay positive and know that better days are ahead. In the meantime, now is a good time to commit to maintaining better health in general. Take stock of the little ways you and your loved ones can protect your health in the future.
In the midst of this pandemic, many people are realizing how little precautions like wearing a face mask or carrying hand sanitizer can prevent major health problems, and the same principle applies to protecting your teen’s teeth during sports.
Dental Injuries Still Occur Indoors
As your family shelters in place, we want to take this opportunity to discuss a topic that often gets overlooked — namely, dental health.
Although your teens can’t play organized sports easily at the moment, chances are they’re still shooting hoops in the backyard, skateboarding around the neighborhood or just horsing around in your living room — which means they’re still at risk of any number of dental injuries.
From cracked teeth to broken jaws, accidents can happen. Right now is as important as ever to take precautions and prevent an emergency trip to the dentist — even though we would love to see you!
Dental Injuries Are Incredibly Common
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 3 million teeth are knocked out during youth sporting events each year. Because it’s not usually a life-threatening injury, these sorts of incidents are easy to overlook. However, consider the short-term and long-term damages that dental injuries can cause.
In the short-term, even a simple lost tooth means a visit to the dentist, time lost at work or school, and money lost that could have been spent on a family vacation or school supplies. In fact, replacing a lost tooth is 20 times more costly than investing in a custom-fitted mouthguard.
In the long-term, a lost tooth is a permanent injury that your teen will have to live with for the rest of their life, and as they age, a lost tooth can lead to teeth becoming misaligned.
Do your teens a favor and teach them early and often not to take their teeth for granted, especially when they participate in sports where even a small accident can have lasting consequences.
Dental Health is a Parent’s Responsibility
We always hope that youth sports leagues are going above and beyond to make health and safety a priority, but the reality is that parents are the primary guardians of their teens’ health.
Shockingly, 84% of young athletes do not always wear mouthguards during sports. In many cases, they are not officially required to wear them. In some cases, this may be due to a false sense of security because they are participating in a sport such as gymnastics or baseball, which are not as high-contact as football or boxing.
However, any form of physical activity comes with risk of dental injury — even skateboarding or shooting hoops in the backyard. As a parent, it is your responsibility to take precautions for your teen, starting with simple measures such as wearing a mouthguard.
There Are Many Way to Damage Your Teeth
When we think of dental injuries, there are usually only a few that come to mind. In reality, the potential damages range from simple cracked and fractured teeth, to tooth intrusion (knocking teeth back into the jawbone), fractured roots (where the tooth is injured from the bottom up), shortening of tooth roots, and other complications such as damaged tooth pulp. Jawbone fractures are one of the more serious dental injuries that no one expects until it happens.
Proper use of helmets and mouthguards can help protect your teen’s jawbone, gums and cheeks from extremely painful damages that require costly corrective surgeries.
Don’t Skimp on Dental Health
Family budgets are tight, and it’s understandable that parents are hesitant to spend a lot of money on sports equipment like a custom mouthguard — especially if they have multiple kids playing sports. But sports are an investment, and if you are going to make that investment, always do it the right way, even if it means spending a few more dollars.
Custom mouthguards, for example, are much safer and effective than over-the-counter “boil-and-bite” mouthguards, even though they cost a little more. Custom mouthguards are specifically molded and fitted to the shape of your teen’s mouth to provide maximum support and protection.
If money is a concern, just think about the potential costs for cosmetic surgery and other expensive dental or facial surgeries, such as fixing a broken jawbone.
When it comes to dental precautions, quality matters, and, even if parents are diligent about safety precautions, poor quality mouthguards or other equipment may come back to haunt them. Do your research and try to find options that provide top quality without breaking the bank.
In today’s marketplace where youth sports are so common, there are many different vendors providing top quality products and solutions at reasonable prices.
Don’t Forget About Less Visible Dental Injuries
Visible damages such as cracked or lost teeth are not the only type of dental injuries that may occur. When it comes to competitive swimming, for example, low pH levels in the water can cause a condition known as “swimmer’s calculus.” This results in excessive enamel erosion, which means that teeth become more sensitive, yellowish, or discolored.
Precautionary measures for dental health don’t just include mouthguards and other external equipment but also, for example, using toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel and keeping mouths closed while swimming so as not to take in water with low pH levels.
Even with mouthguards, routine care such as washing and cleaning thoroughly and checking that the guard keeps a proper fit are just as important as buying the right mouthguard in the first place. Dental health requires a holistic mindset — it’s not just about using the proper equipment. Parents and teens need to make dental health a regular routine and ongoing priority. Parents play a key role here in teaching their teen athletes good and lasting habits.
Don’t Panic When Dental Injuries Occur
Always remember that accidents happen, especially when it comes to teen sports. Don’t panic by having a plan-of-action in place for when an injury happens. If your teen knocks out a tooth, for example, immediately try to position it back into the socket. If that is impossible, you can soak the tooth in milk to prevent the root from drying, and then schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist as soon as possible.
By keeping calm, you can avoid making the problem worse while taking proactive steps to start the healing process. After that, you can wait for a dental professional to work their magic.
Heroes Dental: Your Mission Pediatric Dentist
As COVID-19 continues to keep us sheltered in place, it is important to find ways to keep your teens active. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children ages 5-17 have at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
Now more than ever, families should avoid unnecessary trips at all costs, and an emergency trip to the dentist is the last thing you want to deal with. By prioritizing dental health precautions, from mouthguards to toothpaste, you can instill good habits in your teens and have them up and running — and smiling — when their sports leagues are back in gear. Whether their sport of choice is wrestling, boxing, martial arts, football, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, hockey, baseball, lacrosse or any other physical activity, these activities come with risks to their dental health.
We hope you stay healthy, happy and positive during these challenging times, and we look forward to seeing your teen’s bright smile on their next visit to the dentist.