As the hazy, lazy days of summer give way to fall and millions of students head back to school, this is an important time to consider protecting your child’s teeth during sports. Football, field hockey and soccer are all sports that generally are played in the fall and each poses a serious risk to the well-being of your child’s teeth. In fact, some academic studies on children’s sports injuries have found that children are more likely to suffer dental injuries playing soccer than football.
To prevent lasting injuries to your child’s teeth, a high-quality mouthguard is an indispensable piece of equipment. In a recent study sponsored by the The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, child athletes were sixty (60) times more likely to suffer a dental injury when not wearing a mouthguard when compared against athletes who used a protective mouthguard. Dental injuries sustained by young athletes often require restorative dental care but, depending on the severity of these injuries, the effects can be long-lasting and expensive to treat.
When selecting an appropriate mouthguard for your child, there are several important features to consider before purchasing one. First, the mouthguard must be comfortable and stay in place well. A mouthguard that is not comfortable will distract from a child’s athletic performance and one that does not stay in place in the child’s mouth will either greatly increase the risk to the child’s dental health or make it difficult for the child to breathe or speak. A loose-fitting mouthguard usually results in a child biting down harder to keep it in place making it more difficult for the child to breathe or speak.
Other important features that should be considered when deciding on a mouthguard are its ability to provide coverage of all the child’s teeth, including the molars, and the thickness and ability of the mouthguard to provide adequate protection. The thickness can vary by the contact-level of the sport with 2mm thickness being sufficient for low-contact sports while 4mm thickness is the minimum thickness for heavy-contact sports.
While the need for mouthguards is fairly clear, most parents are not aware of the damage that sports drinks can to do a child’s teeth. In hot weather or over extended periods of exertions, sports drinks can promote recovery in the athlete by replenishing water and electrolytes. However, these drinks contain a significant amount of sugar, almost on par with most regular soda brands. A 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains 14 teaspoons of sugar and several other sports drinks contain relatively high sugar content as well. The constant consumption of sugar can lead to significant tooth decay in your child requiring dental restoration of the damaged teeth.
Protecting your child’s teeth while playing sports is a critical role than a parent can play in promoting good dental health and preventing injury or damage that can follow a child throughout his or her adult life.