Serious facial injuries are common for athletes and sports enthusiasts of all ages. Fortunately, these potentially painful and complex injuries are easy to prevent.
Several of the nation’s top dental associations — including the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Academy for Sports Dentistry (ASD) — advise that athletes wear mouthguards to prevent facial injuries.
Anyone who participates in organized sports or recreational activities is at risk for facial and dental injuries. Children between the ages of 7 and 11 are particularly vulnerable to sports-related mouth injuries, tooth damage and facial trauma.
Help all the athletes in your family play it safe by learning more about facial injuries and how to avoid them.
Common Facial Injuries in Sports and Athletics
Bruises, scrapes and lacerations are common for athletes. Falls, direct hits with a ball and collisions with other players can also result in soft tissue injuries inside the mouth, such as cuts to the gums, tongue or cheeks.
Fractures are a common part of many facial injuries, and broken bones often occur in the nose, jaw and cheek areas. Facial trauma frequently results in chipped or cracked teeth. Sometimes, athletes knock out a tooth — or multiple teeth.
Sports-related facial injuries can be complex, and treatment may require a series of orthodontic procedures and oral surgeries. Experts urge athletes to wear mouth protectors to prevent serious facial and dental injuries.
How Mouthguards Protect Against Facial Injuries
Typical mouthguards cover the upper teeth and help to protect the tongue and the inside of the cheeks and lips. They provide a cushion against blows or impact to the face. Wearing one can minimize the risk of soft tissue injuries and facial fractures, as the guard absorbs much of shock from the fall or impact.
Wearing a mouthguard significantly decreases the likelihood of suffering damage to the teeth as well.
In fact, athletes who don’t wear them are 60 times more likely to crack, chip or lose a tooth. Those who play contact and collision sports have the highest risk for facial and dental injuries, but all athletes can benefit from the protection.
Choose the Correct Mouthguard to Prevent Facial Injuries
Pre-formed, ready-to-wear mouth protectors are available at many sporting goods stores, and they are quite inexpensive. The downside is that these one-size-fits-all models don’t fit very well, and they can make it difficult to talk and breathe.
Spend a bit more for a boil-and-bite guard. These mouth protectors soften under hot water, then mold to your teeth as you bite down. This provides a more customized fit than pre-formed models; however, the fitting process can be challenging.
For the best fit, consider a custom-made mouth protector. Made by your oral surgeon or dental professional, these mouthguards cost more than the boil-and-bite version, but they’re better because they offer superior protection and comfort.
If one or more members of your family participates in sports, contact Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah to schedule a consultation. Our experienced oral surgeons can provide recommendations to help keep them safe, comfortable and protected against facial injuries.