Dental Injuries in Sports: How to Protect Your Little NHL-er

Our Dental Blog | Dental Tips | 01.10.2022

If you’re anything like us, you’re not particularly fond of bitter, blustery, Baltic winter weather. However, even the greenest Grinch would have to agree that winter sports are a lot of fun.

Whether it’s cross-country skiing, snowboarding, or just a little recreational ice skating, winter offers us plenty of opportunities to get outside and get moving. And whether it’s their high metabolisms or blissful ignorance, kids don’t seem to mind the cold nearly as much as adults—especially not when they get to roll around in the snow like adorable little piglets in mud.

However, winter sports, even more so than summer sports, present many opportunities for injury. Particularly for children who seem to throw all notion of self-preservation out the proverbial window in the name of having fun. Fairweather contact sports like football always carry a higher-level risk of injury. But their winter equivalents such as hockey have the added risk factor of a slippery and totally unforgiving surface of solid ice or avalanche-inducing snow.

This winter, take the precautions necessary to protect the teeth of your little NHL-er or future Olympic figure skater. The only thing that should be getting chipped is the ice.

Most Common Dental Injuries in Sports

When it comes to sports injuries, most people immediately think of sprains and strains or overuse injuries such as tennis elbow. While those types of sports injuries are common enough, dental injuries occur more frequently than you might know. And with all of the body slamming into sideboards and falling onto rock-hard ice, it’s not hard to see how children can injure their teeth, jaw, or face.

Dental injuries can be as varied as the smiles they interrupt but, generally, they fall into three broad categories.

  • Cracked and Chipped Teeth

Cracked, chipped or otherwise fractured teeth injuries are almost always the result of trauma. However, though it might seem like these types of injuries are always the result of tremendous force, sometimes it’s just a matter of a lucky shot—or unlucky, as the case may be.

It’s not always possible to detect a cracked or fractured tooth with the naked eye. And eager little athletes are always quick to dismiss mild discomfort when they taste victory. Nevertheless, if you or your child suspect that they may have a cracked tooth, you can look out for these symptoms: pain when biting and chewing, intermittent toothaches and tooth pain, and/or sensitivity to hot and cold food and beverage items.

Even so, according to the American Dental Association and the American Association of Endodontists, diagnosing a cracked tooth might require the assistance of a dentist. It’s not uncommon for cracked teeth to go unnoticed until spotted during a regular checkup.

If caught early, dentists can usually make quick work of a simple crack or fracture. However, if a vertical crack extends below the gum line, a pediatric dentist might opt to perform a root canal to prevent bacterial infection.

  • Damaged and Fractured Roots

These types of dental injuries are similar to the cracks we just discussed above. The difference being, however, that a fractured root injury begins below the gum line and may or may not extend above it. While that might seem like a distinction without a difference, to a pediatric dentist that’s as stark a difference as a summer’s day and a winter’s night.

Your baby Bobby Orr is unlikely to notice root fractures as they lay beneath the surface of the gum. Early diagnosis and root canal treatment are, again, crucial to reducing the risk of infection or, worse, tooth loss. Regular checkups with the dentist go a long way in detecting and successfully treating these types of injuries.

  • Tooth Intrusion

Not all dental injuries involve teeth falling out of the mouth. Tooth intrusion, for example, defines an injury in which the tooth re-enters the jawbone. It can be every bit as painful as it sounds.

Children are particularly susceptible to this type of dental injury. The alveolar bones—the ones that hold our teeth in place—are softer in children than they are in adults.

It’s difficult to miss these types of injuries as they can be tremendously painful and are easily visible. Getting your child either to a pediatric dentist or a sports dentist as soon as possible will reduce their risk of necrosis and potential damage to their permanent teeth. Be sure that your child’s pediatric dentist offers emergency care for just these types of situations. 

How to Protect Your Star Athlete

Your child is going to be posing for a lot of team photos this season and in the seasons to come. As such, you’ll want to protect their smile from the injuries that they’re likeliest to get so that their trophies don’t outshine them.

  • Mouthguards

Various types of mouthguards are available for athletes including over-the-counter “boil and bite” mouthguards. However, for the best fit and protection, it’s best to make a trip to the dentist’s office. Treehouse Dental offers custom-fitted mouthguards along with a host of other preventative treatments to keep kids smiling when they’re on the slopes.

  • Helmets

It might sound like tired advice but, helmets work. And they do a lot more than protect teeth. Helmets prevent some of the most common sports injuries—and some of the worst—such as broken jaws and concussions.

Kids are likeliest to injure themselves when they’re casually playing with their friends and their guard is down as opposed to when they’re in a competitive situation. That’s also when they’re likeliest to go without their protective equipment. To prevent injuries, make sure that your child always has their helmet with them.

Schedule Regular Checkups

When we encourage our kids and teens to “leave it all out on the ice”, we aren’t talking about their teeth. Maintaining good dental and oral health is the first step to preventing tooth-related sports injuries.

Schedule your child’s next appointment with Treehouse Dental today to ensure that your child’s smile stays as pure and white as the undriven snow.

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