Spring Sports & Tooth Injuries: How to protect your child’s smile

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Springs sports are in full swing and while most parents believe their child is protected with the helmets and shin guards, many forget about mouth guards. This morning Dr. Ukti Phadnis, from Wethersfield Dental Group, stopped by our studio to explain how to prevent tooth trauma.

Below are some important questions answered by Dr. Phadnis.

What do parents and coaches need to know about protecting teeth while playing sports?
Some athletes may think that a mouth guard is optional or really not important because they don’t play a high contact sport, but a mouth injury can occur during any physical activity. While there has been a crucial focus on preventing concussions, parents and coaches need to be just as concerned about players’ smiles. It’s not just about the teeth, but also protecting the jaw and surrounding bone and tissue from damage. Even if a player wears a helmet, a custom mouth-guard is essential.

What are the benefits of a custom guard versus one you buy in a drug store?
Generic, soft thermoplastic guards do offer some protection, but an external hard shell can be added to a custom guard to improve rigidity. The guard offers a precise, tight fit to the teeth and gums that is more comfortable, allows a person to speak clearly, plus it won’t fall out. It may also protect against concussions. Comparing dentist-fabricated, custom-made sports mouth-guards with stock or boil-and-bite mouth guards reveals significant differences. Boil-and-bite mouth-guards do not fit as accurately as custom-made types, so they often are uncomfortable and frequently interfere with the athlete’s ability to breathe and speak.

In 1995, Dr. Raymond Flander’s study on the high incidence of oral injuries showed that in football, where mouth-guards are mandatory, only .07 percent of all injuries involved teeth and the oral cavity. Conversely, in basketball, where mouth-guards are not required, 34 percent of all injuries to players involved teeth and/or the oral cavity. Obviously, dental injuries could be significantly reduced if children, teenagers and adults who partake in soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, rollerblading, skateboarding, martial arts, boxing, hockey, kickboxing and mountain biking wore custom-made mouth-guards.

Can you explain how a mouth-guard can actually help prevent concussions?
Many have speculated that mouth-guards can prevent some sports-related concussions, by helping to absorb shock, stabilize the head and neck, and limit movement caused by a direct hit to the jaw. But there has been little evidence until a study published in the May/June 2014 issue of General Dentistry, the peer reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry. The study found that high school football players wearing store-bought mouth-guards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries than those wearing properly fitted, custom mouth-guards. The findings showed that 8.3 percent of the athletes wearing using over-the-counter standard mouth-guards suffered brain injuries. However, only 3.6 percent of the players wearing custom mouthguards suffered concussions.

The study also indicated that mouth-guard thickness is a factor in the level of protection from mouth-guards. The average thickness of custom-made mouth-guards worn in the study was 3.5 millimeters, while the average thickness of the over-the-counter mouth-guards was only 1.65 millimeters.

Doctor what should people do if a permanent tooth gets knocked out?
If the crown and root are intact, put it back in place and call your dentist right way. If the tooth is dirty, rinse it with saline, do not scrub it, to remove the debris and put it back in. If unable to place it back in (extratoral time less than 60 minutes) put the tooth in Hank’s balanced salt solution, milk or normal saline or saliva and get to the dentist. If a hospital emergency room is the only option for treatment, you must request a resident dentist or a dentist on call to ensure it is properly treated. The tooth, if intact, can usually reintegrate. Chlorihexidine rinse and systemic antibiotic may be given. A dentist will splint the knocked out tooth to the teeth next to it for support until the tooth heals into the bone. It may become ankylosed (fused to the bone) or require root canal therapy, build-up and crown.

What if a tooth just gets broken?
If a tooth breaks, whether or not it can be saved depends how severe and where the break or fracture is. Depends on whethers its an enamel fracture, dentin fracture or pulp exposure or crown/root fracture, root fracture, alveolar fracture. It is not necessary to save the broken piece of a tooth. It cannot be bonded back predictably. Treatment may be as simple as a filling, or may necessitate a more extensive root canal and crown. If it cannot be salvaged, a bridge or implant can be used to restore the area.
For more information go to WethersfieldDentalGroup.com 

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