Athletes of all ages and skill levels are at risk for injuries and dental problems. Dental issues can have an impact on an athlete’s performance. The good news is that they are preventable in most cases.
Dental problems are a common cause of missed school and work. This applies to professional athletes, as well as the general population. When someone suffers from a dental infection or toothache, they can become seriously ill.
Many people must spend multiple hours at the dentist to address dental problems that become dangerous infections or severe toothaches. Infections in the mouth can affect the entire body, causing fatigue, fevers, and a weakened immune system.
Painful dental issues can negatively impact someone’s ability to obtain proper nutrition. For many professional athletes, maintaining a strict diet and exercise regimen are essential aspects of their success, and a dental problem can interrupt those routines.
Everyone can prevent the interruptions caused by common dental problems. Athletes should commit to maintaining great oral hygiene at home and seeing a dentist on a consistent basis to stop dental problems before they start.
Home care must include effective removal of dental plaque through great brushing and flossing techniques. Dental plaque causes both cavities and gum disease, but you can prevent those dental issues by removing them every day.
There are additional dental problems that are more likely to occur in athletes, both professional and amateur. Contact sports carry the risk of blunt force or trauma to the face, which often involves the mouth, teeth, and jaws.
The impact of a blow to the face can easily break a tooth (or multiple teeth). Athletes suffer injuries that range from small chipping of the enamel to deep cracks extending into the tooth’s root. The treatment necessary to repair these injuries depends on the severity of the break.
When a tooth is completely knocked out, immediate treatment is of the utmost importance. If you have the tooth, your dentist can reimplant it with a relatively predictable long-term success rate.
If you’re unable to find the tooth or unable to see your dentist immediately, the chances of reimplantation being successful are low. The situation may require replacement of the missing tooth with a dental bridge or implant.
The lips, cheeks, and tongue often suffer deep cuts from sports injuries as. It is the teeth that cut the surrounding soft tissues when subjected to forceful trauma. The mouth has a significant blood supply, and these lacerations often bleed profusely. Deep cuts typically require stitches in order to stop bleeding and promote healing.
Perhaps the most serious of sports injuries to the mouth cause fractures of the jawbones. The mandible (lower jaw) connects to the skull at the TMJ, just in front of the ear. Just below that joint, the mandible is relatively small and delicate, and thus, easy to break.
A blunt force to the chin or side of the jaw is enough to break the mandible. These fractures may require surgical intervention.
It may seem too simple, but it is true that you can prevent the majority of these dental injuries by wearing an athletic mouthguard. A custom-fitted athletic mouthguard covers the teeth with a soft, rubbery material, so it is less likely for teeth to break or be completely knocked out.
The mouthguard also provides a separation between the teeth and the soft tissues, so lacerations are less likely to occur. Rather than forcing the lips, cheeks, or tongue into the sharp edges of teeth, they press into the rubbery material of the mouthguard.
A well-made and properly fitting mouthguard also lowers the risk of jaw fractures. An athletic mouthguard provides a shock absorber effect between the teeth to reduce the forces of impact on the jaws.
If you play contact sports of any kind, it is wise to invest in a custom athletic mouthguard from your dentist.