Safety: Avoiding Tooth and Mouth
few years ago, a dental journal
called ADA News published an article
that described what seemed like
an unusual case: A child had suffered
serious dental injuries after snagging
his teeth on a basketball net while
doing a slam-dunk.
A freak accident? Not quite. After
the article appeared, nearly 40
dentists wrote in with their own
stories about would-be Michael Jordans
who sacrificed their front teeth
in pursuit of the perfect dunk.
older children and adults, sports
injuries are common. Dentists estimate
that between 13% and 39% of dental
injuries occur while playing sports.
The front teeth suffer the most.
About 80% of all dental injuries
affect one or more of the front
teeth. Soft tissue damage —
from biting the tongue or cheek,
for example — also is common.
injuries aren't always permanent.
Even if a tooth has been knocked
out completely, it often can be
saved if you get to a dentist quickly
enough. In addition, minor chips
and cracks can be repaired with
that are nearly as strong as the
However, even "minor"
mishaps can cause significant, and
expensive, damage. If you enjoy
sports or other high-risk activities,
it's worth investing in some protection.
The use of mouth guards among football
players, for example, is believed
to prevent about 200,000 oral injuries
are two types of protection to choose
Helmets — If you enjoy any
type of activity that involves speed
or impact — such as playing
football, skating or riding a bike
or a scooter — a helmet is
a must. Forget hand-me-downs; if
the helmet doesn't fit correctly
or is not appropriate for a particular
sports, it may be too uncomfortable
Mouth guards — As many male
and female student and adult athletes
have discovered, wearing a mouth
guard is one of the best ways to
prevent a sudden trip to the dentist.
Some ready-to-wear, U-shaped mouth
guards, made from rubber or vinyl
materials, are available to purchase
over-the-counter in many sporting
goods stores. However, they generally
do not fit well and, as a result,
do not evenly distribute the force
of an impact. Dr. Sadowsky recommends
that you avoid using these type
of mouth guards and suggests going
to a dentist to have a custom-fitted
mouth guard made to fit comfortably
in your mouth and offer better protection.
having a mouth guard custom-fit
by a dentist isn't an option, then
an alternative could be a "boil-and-bite"
mouth guard. These mouth guards
are made from a type of plastic
that softens in boiling water. You
place the mouth guard in boiling
water, and once the plastic is soft,
you put it into your mouth, bite
down on it, and mold the softened
plastic around your teeth using
your fingers, lips and tongue. Be
careful not to scald yourself when
removing the mouth guard from the
boiling water, and make sure that
it isn't too hot to put into your
mouth. If the mouth guard doesn't
fit comfortably the first time,
you can reheat it and do it again.
mouth guards are available in many
sporting goods stores.
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