With obesity rates increasing at an astounding pace, you might be more than happy to sign your teen up for a community sports league or their school team. However, in addition to experiencing a healthy dose of exercise, many teens walk away with painful dental injuries. Here are three common dental problems that can stem from youth sports and how dentists can treat the issue.
1. Loose Teeth
Facial impact can happen in almost any sport, including sports that are considered low impact like basketball. Unfortunately, when the teeth are subjected to force, they can get knocked loose. In fact, basketball has the highest incidence of dental injuries, largely because many athletes endure facial blows from elbows.
While many people assume that teeth are held securely in place by a bone, teeth are actually anchored to the alveolar process by a small ligament called the periodontal ligament. This ligament allows healthy teeth to move gently to bite more effectively and prevent injury. However, if enough sudden force is applied to a tooth, this ligament can stretch or tear, leading to a loose tooth.
To prevent loose teeth, also called tooth subluxation, dentists recommend that athletes wear protective mouth guards. Mouth guards help to absorb shock and dissipate force, decreasing the chances of subluxation. This is especially true when athletes wear custom mouth guards. Custom mouth guards are so effective at absorbing impact that they can even reduce athletes’ risks of concussions.
However, if loose teeth do occur, dentists can help. After checking the sensation of the tooth and treating any cuts that may be present, dentists can splint the damaged tooth by temporarily securing it to nearby teeth while it heals.
This splint is removed after a few weeks, and the tooth is monitored carefully for several months to make sure it is healthy and stable. If the tooth endures internal bleeding or nerve damage from the injury, root canal therapy may be needed to save the tooth.
2. Soft Tissue Lacerations
When sports equipment like hockey pucks, lacrosse sticks, or tennis rackets come in contact with the face, they can cause lacerations of their own. However, even gentle impact can be enough to force the mouth closed, putting your athlete at risk for soft tissue injuries.
Tongues can be sliced, gums can be temporarily pushed in a new direction, and cheeks can be bitten, causing pain, bleeding, and even infection. While wearing a mouth guard can help to cushion the teeth and prevent cuts, it is possible for athletes to sustain soft tissue lacerations if they are hit hard enough by equipment.
Emergency dentists can stop bleeding by applying a special coagulant medication to the area and applying pressure. After the bleeding has subsided, dentists can suture the area closed. To prevent infections, dentists may prescribe antibiotics for the athlete to take for a week or so after the injury.
To prevent these kinds of injuries, encourage helmet, face mask, and mouth guard use. Consider investing in custom safety gear to improve comfort and encourage normal use. To protect your athlete during the game, consider packing clean gauze and bandages just in case.
3. Swimmer’s Calculus
Swimming is an excellent way to help your teen players maintain flexibility, endurance, and muscle tone. Unfortunately, pool water isn’t quite as kind on your child’s smile.
To keep pool water crystal clear, safe, and comfortable for swimmers, most pool owners chlorinate the pool. Certain additives, such as antimicrobials, have a higher pH than saliva, breaking down special proteins in your saliva that protect against decay. As these proteins break down, they also leave behind deposits on the surface of the teeth, referred to as swimmer’s calculus.
Since swimmer’s calculus most often occurs in student-athletes who swim frequently and for long periods, you can prevent the problem from occurring by asking your teen to cut back on their training sessions. Rinsing the mouth with clean water after a swim can also help to prevent damage.
Also, only let your teen swim in areas where the water pH is carefully checked and controlled since higher concentrations of additives can amplify the problem.
If your teen does develop swimmer’s calculus from their hours in the pool, don’t despair. Dentists can polish away deposits and repair decay by using tooth-colored composite resins. Modern resins are available in a wide array of shades and designed to match the natural opacity of the teeth, allowing dentists to create seamless repairs.
If you have a sports player in your home, keep our number handy. Here at Valley Oak Dental Group, our team of dentists can help you to restore even your most damaged teeth through careful restorative and cosmetic dental services. Give us a call today if you suspect you need an appointment or if your child has sport-related teeth problems.