April is National Facial Protection Month and the Academy for Sports Dentistry (ASD), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), and the American Dental Association (ADA) are teaming up to remind parents, coaches and athletes to play it safe as they prepare to suit up for recreational and organized sports. The mouth and face of a child or young adult can be easily injured if the proper precautions are not used while participating in sports or recreational activities. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the 7 million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by children as young as 5 years old. Last year, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) forecasted that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events. They also reported that athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth. Yet, in a survey* commissioned by the AAO, 67% of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. This raises a question: if mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?RELATED |'Tis the season for mouthguardsRELATED |Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi discusses her dentist father The AAO survey* found that 84% of children do not wear mouth guards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads. At a time when a good football helmet or hockey stick may cost $200 each, mouth guards can be one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they help protect jaws. An effective mouth guard holds teeth in place, resists tearing and allows for normal speech and breathing. It should cover the teeth and, depending on the patient’s bite, also the gums. Your dental professional can recommend the best mouth guard for every sports activity. A properly fitted mouth guard can prevent many accidents and traumatic injuries.The dental experts at the ASD, AAPD, AAOMS, AAO, and ADA urge athletes, parents/caregivers, and coaches to be proactive as they head out this spring and stay safe on the field with these important tips ... • Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports. Mouth guards can help prevent injury to a person’s jaw, mouth and teeth and they are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury. Dentists and dental specialists can make customized mouth guards, which provide the best fit. Other less-expensive options are the boil and bite mouthguards, which are softened in boiling water to fit the mouth, and stock mouth guards, which are ready-to-wear but often don’t fit well. • Wear a helmet. Helmets absorb the energy of an impact and help prevent damage to the head. • Wear protective eyewear. Eyes are extremely vulnerable to damage, especially when playing sports. • Wear a face shield to avoid damage to the delicate bones around the eyes, nose, and jaw. Hockey pucks, basketballs, and racquetballs can cause severe facial damage at any age.National Facial Protection Month is sponsored annually during the month of April by the Academy for Sports Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, and the American Dental Association.* The AAO commissioned Impulse Research Corp. to conduct the AAO 2009 Protective Sports Gear Survey. The survey was conducted in February 2009 online with a random sample of 1,022 men and women, ages 18 years old or older, from the U.S. Survey participants were carefully selected to closely match U.S. population demographics and the respondents are representative of American men and women 18 years old or older who have children between the ages of 8 and 17, who participate in organized sports. The overall sampling error rate for this survey is +/- 3 percent at the 95% level of confidence.