By: Dr. Cindy Flanagan, DDS , Guest Contributor
One of the best feelings in the world is seeing your son or daughter beam with a soccer trophy after a successful game. However, suffering from an uncomfortable dental injury could put a damper on your post-game thrill or even prevent your child from being able to play. Given the stereotypes of toothless hockey and football players, you might think your child's mouth is relatively safe in a sport like soccer, but the running, kicking, and tumbling involved can put his or her pearly whites at risk. The Academy of General Dentistry found that "soccer players are more likely than football players to sustain a dental-related injury." Soccer is one of the top sports for dental injuries, second only to basketball. Read on to learn what you can do to protect your child’s teeth from the perils of playing.
So how problematic is soccer for your child's mouth, really? Here are some sobering statistics: according to a study on Norwegian players, one in five soccer injuries is dental, and, based on a different report, about 75 percent of those tooth-related injuries are fractures. These are cracks that can lead to decay, periodontal disease, or even tooth loss. In addition, trauma to baby teeth has been shown to cause permanent damage, since it can interfere with the adult tooth waiting to grow in or your child's jawbone development.
Shield Their Teeth Against Injury
Your little soccer star probably wears cleats and shin guards to soccer practices, so why not have protective gear for his or her teeth? I create custom-made sports guards to fit the unique smiles of many of my young athlete patients, so I recommend checking with your child's dentist about what options they offer. These are plastic covers that fit over your child's upper and lower teeth to shield them from injury. They absorb the impact of any ball or foot that may come flying toward his or her face so it doesn't harm the teeth.
You might be able to find "boil and bite" mouth guards or pre-made plastic covers at the drug store, but these almost never fit right. A mouth guard that gets spit out five minutes into the game won't do much to prevent injury. As an added bonus, mouth guards do more than just protect your tyke's teeth—they can also reduce his or her risk for concussion by almost half. In fact, the primary reason why football and hockey are actually safer than soccer is because their players are typically required to wear mouth guards, while only 7 percent of soccer players do.
Score Points with Proper Dental Care
As any soccer mom or dad knows, keeping your child safe is the most important thing. Investing in a mouth guard can help you maintain your peace of mind so you and your little athlete can focus on enjoying the game.
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