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Dental Hygiene Tips for Teen Athletes

For those who love a good hockey game, you probably cheer on your very favorite NFL player who sports a toothless grin.  At the salaries that NFL stars command, you know their missing teeth aren’t a result of lack of money; they just figure, they’ll get whacked in the face again, so might as well leave that porcelain out of their mouth during a game.  Renowned hockey players like Gordie Howe, Bobby Clarke, Stan Mikita, and Bobby Hull all have toothless grins.

Your student athlete might be sporting a smile similar to these hockey greats, if he or she does not choose to wear some oral protection to save their smile.  It doesn’t even need to be a wayward hockey stick that takes some teeth, as approximately 13 to 39% of all dental injuries are related to sports.

Dental injuries

Did you know that some five million teeth are injured or knocked out every year?  Dental insurance helps, of course, and some people must pay out-of-pocket for their dental calamities – but, unbelievably, nearly 500 million dollars is spent annually just to replace teeth.  You’ve got to believe that parents would rather have their kids belong to the computer club instead of sports activities, because sports activities cause the greatest percentage of dental traumatic injuries in teens.  In fact 50% of all children and teens will suffer at least one traumatic injury to a tooth by high school graduation time, with basketball and hockey being the biggest culprits.  That is why it is important to get any teenager who participates in contact sports, fitted for a mouth guard prior to commencing that sport.  That mouth guard should be worn at all times, whether at practice sessions or the big game, so remember, if your child is set to play any sports activity, you should consult with a family dentist prior to undertaking that sport.  A top Maplewood dentist can go over a variety of dental safety tips for teenagers and will give you advice on how to keep teeth healthy.

Mouth guards help

The most-prevalent injury in contact sports is to the two front teeth.  Being fitted by a dentist for a mouth guard, and, being diligent about wearing it, will prohibit not only dental injuries, but other injuries around the head and neck as well.  Incredibly, wearing a mouth guard will help thwart a concussion by 50%.  Additionally, by the simple act of wearing a mouth guard, your teen will not become one of 200,000 oral injuries that occur yearly.  While most people would think a mouth guard is strictly a protective covering for the teeth, wearing one will help protect your teeth, cheeks, lips and tongue from injuries, as well as any jaw injuries or fractures.

Obtaining a mouth guard

You should see a dentist to have your teen fitted properly with a mouth guard.  It must conform specifically to your teen’s mouth and jaw structure.  In other words, do not simply go to the drugstore and purchase an over-the-counter mouth guard.  The dentist will ensure that the mouth guard fits properly and does not interfere with your young athlete’s breathing, and/or his or her speech.  The mouth guard should fit tightly and not “rock” on the teeth, as this will cause the hard plastic to be bitten or chewed and lessen its durability as well as its primary function.

Maintaining a mouth guard

Maintaining a mouth guard is almost as important as being fitted for and wearing a mouth guard, is the maintenance of it.  Mouth guards are made of porous material, which allows bacterial growth to form.  Your teen must learn how to properly care for this dental appliance and keep it scrupulously clean to prevent bacteria from forming and possible disease transmission which might result in gum infection (bleeding gums) or illnesses like breathing difficulties (wheezing is the most common), nausea and/or diarrhea.

To thwart any bacterial infections in mouth guards, you should ensure that your teen athlete practices good dental hygiene with this dental device, such as:

  • Washing the mouth guard after each use in cold water (it is important not to use warm, hot or boiling water because it will alter the shape of the mouth guard);
  • Using a soft toothbrush to clean all parts of the mouth guard, then soaking it in a solution usually used for denture cleaning; and
  • Storing the mouth guard in a protective case after cleaning it.

Some dentists have a machine which will clean and sterilize your mouth guard, or a bite guard, and are happy to do this service for you, without charge, at the time of your regular dental or hygienist appointment.  It can be done on premises while you are having the appointment.  If you need more information regarding mouth guards for teen sports activities, be sure to schedule a consult with a family dentist today.

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