sports dentistry

Children who play sports are prone to accidents and traumatic injury. A blow to the face with a baseball or a traumatic fall from a skateboard can cause damage to the teeth, gums, and other dental tissues. Such situations call for a dental emergency that should not be ignored. Failure to get immediate treatment and care can increase the risk of permanent damage. Moreover, it increases the need for more extensive and expensive dental treatments.

For this reason, it is essential to know about the different types of injuries that require emergency dental care. Some of the common dental injuries may include cracked or fractured tooth, knocked out tooth, damage to the teeth, and gums due to traumatic fall or any other type of accident. Usually, the treatment depends upon the extent of the injury and the condition of the tooth. A chipped tooth or minor cracks can be treated by tooth filling.

However, severe damage to the tooth may require endodontic therapy. Additionally, knocked out teeth may need a thorough evaluation to decide between reattachment of the tooth in the socket and extraction. Emergency dental care may be useful in saving the health of your teeth and gums.

However, it is essential to follow preventative measures to minimize dental damage from a sports injury.

Sports mouthguards are a beneficial asset for athletes. These mouth guards are specifically designed to protect the teeth and gums of the players and reduce the risk of tooth fracture. Let’s read the article further and take a closer look at emergency dental care and use of mouthguards in sports dentistry.

What do you mean by sports dentistry?

Sports dentistry is a branch of dental sciences that deals with the prevention and treatment of oro-facial athletic injuries. Moreover, it is related to oral diseases as well as the collection and dissemination of information on dental athletic injuries. (1)

Often, people overlook the dental damages that happen due to accidents while playing sports. Such situations may not bother the person immediately; however, it can lead to severe destruction of the tooth structure.

Sports dentistry specializes in providing immediate care and service to reduce the possible damage and maintain the health of your teeth and gums.

Additionally, it also encourages research in the prevention of sports injury. (2)

Emergency dental injuries and treatment

Every year around five million Americans loses their teeth due to sports injuries. Typically, sports injuries can be categorized as follows –

Cracked tooth

Tooth fracture or a crack in the tooth can widely vary on the levels of severity and extent of the damage. Usually, a blow to the face while playing sports causes tooth fracture, more commonly, in athletes who do not wear a mouthguard. It is essential to know about the different types of tooth fracture caused by sports injury –

  • Craze lines – these are longitudinal cracks present on the surface of the tooth. Craze lines are considered as scoring lines in the enamel and do not pose a high risk for dental health.
  • Cracked tooth – this incident involves a crack or split that usually begins at the crown of the tooth and extends downwards into the tooth.

Symptoms of cracked tooth commonly include-

  • Sharp pain on biting which dissipates afterward
  • Intermittent tooth pain
  • Pain during chewing or drinking accompanied by tooth sensitivity(3)
  • Chipping of a tooth which may expose the underlying dentin or even pulp tissue

Treatment of cracked tooth depends on the extent of tooth fracture. Usually, cracks that involve pulp tissue require root canal treatment to avoid bacterial infection. Extensive cuspal fractures may need a tooth extraction and replacement procedures.

Root fracture

Often, a blow at a wrong angle to the face can cause breakage of a tooth root. During this situation, the crack begins in the root and travels in the direction of the tooth’s chewing surface.  A root fracture is invisible and can become an open portal for bacterial infection. (4)

Treatment of root fracture involves root canal therapy followed by crown placement. However, the success of the treatment depends upon the time of diagnosis. Undiagnosed root fractures can cause tooth necrosis and eventual tooth loss.

Intrusion of tooth

The most dental damage that can happen due to sports injury is knocked out teeth. This type of traumatic injury is termed as the intrusion of the tooth. Tooth intrusion is a common finding in primary teeth and involves a tiny percentage of permanent tooth damage. (5) This is because the jaws of young children are not hard enough as compared to the jaw bone of an adult. Tooth intrusion usually involves the following complications –

  • Damage to the pulp tissue by necrosis or extensive damage that is beyond repair.
  • Root resorption – this condition most commonly affects permanent teeth, which cause shortening of the roots.
  • Ankylosis – ankylosis causes the fusion of the tooth root and the surrounding alveolar bone.

Depending on the time elapsed after the injury and the type of damage, the treatments may vary from tooth reattachment to extraction followed by tooth replacement. The best way to save the tooth and allow reattachment is to rinse it with water, avoid scrubbing of the tooth surface and place it inside the bony socket. Never force the tooth into the socket.

Another way of retrieving the knocked-out tooth is to store it in a small container of milk or coconut water. Cold saltwater can also help to maintain the vitality of the tooth. Meanwhile, contact your dentist and book an emergency visit for tooth reattachment.

Soft tissue injuries

Sports injuries to the soft tissue may include cuts or lacerations on the tongue, cheek, gums, and lips. Often the typical sign of soft tissue injury is bleeding from the affected site. To control the bleeding and ease the pain follow the steps given below –

  • Use a moistened tea bag on the bleeding site and keep it for 15-20 minutes.
  • A cold compress can help to soothe the affected area
  • Use a sterile gauze and apply pressure for 10 minutes to arrest the bleeding
  • Visit the dentist for emergency care for prolonged bleeding of oral tissues

What is the importance of using a mouthguard?

How to Clean Mouth Guard

A mouthguard is a protective dental device that covers the teeth and the gums from potential damage caused during sports injuries. Most commonly, mouth guards are worn by athletes for sports like football, cricket, hockey, and basketball. (6) Mouthguards are incredibly beneficial for athletes with braces. Some of the benefits of using mouth guards are as follows –

  • Uninterrupted speech
  • A firm barrier between the teeth and soft tissues
  • Highly comfortable
  • Ease in breathing
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable and reusable
  • Has good resilience and tear resistance

It is noted that players without a mouth guard are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth as compared to players who wear a mouthguard.

Moreover, sports injuries have three times more potential to cause dental and facial injuries as compared to road traffic accidents or ongoing violence. Therefore, it is essential to use a mouth guard, especially for athletes who have braces to protect the teeth and gums.

What are the different types of mouthguard?

While choosing the best type of mouthguard, it is essential to keep the following points in mind –

  • Resilience and durability – mouth guards should stay intact, in the mouth and protect the dental tissues. Additionally, the right mouthguard should last for a long time.
  • Ease of speech – always looks for a mouth guard that fits well and does not interfere with your speech.
  • Easy to clean – it is common to see a foreign appliance coated with dental plaque. Moreover, any foreign substance in the mouth tends to attract more bacteria. Therefore, a mouthguard should be easy to clean regularly.

Now coming on to the types of mouth guards, it is essential to discuss with your sports coach for the team or league insurance that can cover the cost of manufacture. Most of the insurance companies cover the damage of professionally made mouth guards. Typically, three types of mouthguards are suitable for athletes with and without braces –

Boil and bite mouth guards

As the name of the mouth guard suggests, boil and bite mouth guards are fabricated as follows –

  • The mouth guard material is placed in boiled water to soften it
  • The soft material is then placed in the mouth to mold it around the teeth(7)
  • The mold is then removed from the mouth and allowed to cool down

Boil and bite mouth guards fit well as they are customized to the size of the person’s jaw. Moreover, these mouth guards can be modified multiple times, especially during ongoing orthodontic treatment. The only disadvantage of using these mouthguards is the quality of the material.

Boil and bite mouth guards are not sturdy enough to provide protection against high impact sports like hockey, football, and wrestling. However, these mouthguards are economical and cost around $40-$100. While selecting boil and bite mouth guards, always look for an ADA seal of acceptance, which certifies the quality of the product.

Off-the-shelf mouthguards

Off-the-shelf mouthguards are one of the readily available varieties of mouth guards. They come in one size that fits all types of dental arches. Off-the-shelf mouthguards are a good buy for athletes who don’t wear braces. (8) There are many brands and companies that claim that off-the-shelf mouthguards are suitable for athletes with braces. However, these mouthguards are made up of a thin material which does not protect against damage. The cost of off-the-shelf mouth guards usually ranges from $15 – $35.

Custom-fitted mouthguards

Custom-fitted mouthguards are the best type of mouthguards in terms of quality, comfort, and function. These mouth guards are made explicitly by the dentist according to the patient’s jaw size. The clinical procedure to fabricate these mouthguards is similar to that of a boil and bite mouthguard. The patient is asked to bite on a material which molds around the teeth and braces.

Once the impression of the mouth is taken, the material is sent to a dental lab for fabrication of the mouth guard. This process takes around two weeks. Once the appliance is ready, the dentist checks the fit of the mouth guard. (9) Custom-fitted mouthguards are the best buy for athletes with braces. The cost of these mouthguards ranges from $200 and above.

How to take care of your mouthguard?

The best way to increase the durability of your mouthguard is to take proper care of the mouthguard. This process includes regular cleaning of the mouth guard. Let’s look at some easy techniques that you can incorporate in your daily oral health routine –

  • Always rinse your mouthguard after every use with warm water to remove the plaque and bacteria that may have stuck on the appliance
  • After rinsing the mouthguard, clean with a soft toothbrush. Avoid the use of toothpaste as its abrasive nature may scratch the surface of the mouthguard
  • Allow your mouth guard to dry completely before storing it in a protective case
  • While regular cleaning may help to keep your mouthguard in good shape, it is essential to deep clean the appliance at least once in a week. There are several solutions like denture cleaning liquid, mouthwash, bleach, and water mixture that are suitable for deep cleaning of the mouth guard.
  • Soak the appliance for at least 30 minutes in any of the cleaning solutions mentioned above, rinse it with warm water, and let it dry.
  • Occasionally checks your mouthguard for any cracks or damage that can be repaired immediately.

Overview on sports dentistry

Dental injuries are a common occurrence for children playing sports and young athletes. Usually, it includes trauma to the head and mouth as a result of play activities or involvement in sports. Knowing the types of dental emergencies will prepare you to act accordingly at the time of traumatic injury.

It is essential to immediately visit the dentist and take the necessary steps in time to prevent further damage to the dental problem. Some of the common emergency dental injuries include a cracked tooth, root fracture, avulsion of the tooth, and soft tissue injuries. Preventative appliances like mouth guards are a savior in such situations. It protects the teeth and gums without interfering with the normal functioning of the mouth.

Mouthguards can be bought over-the-counter or customized to the exact jaw size. The main criteria depend on the resilience and durability of the appliance. While you may find the best type of mouthguard, it is essential to keep it clean regularly. It increases the health of your mouth and maintains the longevity of your appliance.