Dentist urges sporty kids to don mouthguards

A children’s dentist is stressing the importance of wearing mouthguards and helmets in the light of the fact that more than three million teeth will be knocked out in youth sporting activities this year.
Stephen Mitchell, associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatric Dentistry in the States, says: ‘Basketball and baseball are the two biggest mouth-injuring sports. And the most common injuries we see are broken, displaced or knocked out teeth, and broken jaws.’
The increasing participation of girls and young women in competitive sports means that they, just like their male counterparts, should know the risks of dental injuries and use additional protective gear as appropriate, Professor Mitchell says.
Mitchell says mouth guards and helmets with face protectors are the best way for kids to avoid dental injuries while playing sports.
He says: ‘If the child has a full set of permanent teeth then a custom guard can be made that will provide protection but be small enough to make it easy to communicate with teammates.
‘But if they still have some of their baby teeth, a custom guard is a waste of money. Parents will be better off going to the store and buying one of the guards that can be boiled and moulded to their child’s mouth.’
So what should you do if despite your best preventive efforts your child still hurts his or her teeth or jaw?
If a tooth is broken or cracked, see a dentist within 24 hours, Mitchell says. If a tooth or teeth have been displaced or knocked out, Mitchell says, take the child immediately to the emergency room and to try to preserve the tooth.
A tooth that has been knocked out needs to be back in the mouth within 30 minutes for the best chance of long-term survival.
He offers these tips for preserving the tooth, which can even help past the ideal 30-minute window:
• Avoid touching the root because it can be damaged easily
• If the tooth is dirty, hold it by the upper part and rinse it off with milk until most of the dirt is washed away. If you don’t have milk, don’t clean it. Wiping it off may cause more damage
• If your child is old enough not to swallow it, try to gently put the tooth back in its socket for the best chance of preservation
• If you can’t get it back in the socket, put it in a cup of milk and head for the dentist or emergency room.
‘We tell people to put the tooth in milk because the cells around the root are still alive after it is knocked out and milk can provide nutrients to the cells to help keep them alive,’ he adds.
‘Do not put the tooth in water. It can cause the cells to burst and makes saving the tooth much less likely.’

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