‘Tis the season to be careful, fa la la la la la la la la. What? It isn’t time to start singing Christmas songs yet! Well, school has begun and, as dental professionals, we have to be aware of several things. Sports teams have begun their season. Seasons vary, but training may be ongoing. We must remind our patients who have children about the risks of mouth injury during many sports games they play. This is not just about football. Statistics show that 34% of sports injuries are in the orofacial region. This applies to soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, basketball — all contact sports. When you think about it, almost any sport has the potential to inflict oral damage.
I attended a seminar many years ago at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting. The presenter showed a slide series of kids wearing orthodontics who were practicing layups. They were jumping high to touch the rim to get the ball into the net. The ensuing photos were of avulsed teeth. The orthodontic wires became enmeshed in the net, and guess which one gave first? The next thing you know, a child is in the dental office with teeth and wires in their hand. Not a pretty sight. This was definitely a memorable seminar.
We need to be advocates for mouthguard protection for children’s teeth. Sure, many kids do not want to wear a mouthguard because of the added bulk, the strange taste, and they think they aren’t cool. But some very wild colors and insignias can be applied to these appliances that will boost them into the cool category.
Although we may discuss the procedure with our patients, they may opt for store-bought boil-and-bite mouthguards. These versions do not last very long, are not as resilient, and usually are bulky. This may be why coaches and parents often opt not to protect their children’s teeth with mouthguards.
Properly fitted mouthguards are great preventive tools. The importance of wearing them should be an easy conversation to have with patients after you find out which sports are involved. It is definitely an uphill battle to get kids to want to wear mouthguards, but as dental professionals, we should still advocate protection.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, is a leading dental clinician, author, educator, and consultant who currently practices dentistry in Lincolnwood, Ill. Dr. Doniger has written numerous articles on topics ranging from periodontal disease to effective communications, and has presented many lectures with an ongoing focus on women in the dental industry.