Kids playing sports

A smile is one of the most important things your child will ever wear, but that smile is at risk of getting injured if your child plays sports. Studies have found that around 32 percent of all facial/dental traumas are sports related. Unfortunately, those dental injuries are not simple fixes for a dentist, and not only do these injuries cause pain, but also the lifetime cost of a severely injured tooth —not teeth — can be as much as $20,000. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent these injuries (and expenses).

Be aware of what’s considered appropriate protection based on the sport
Knowing the risks and the most appropriate dental protection for the sport your child participates in is important. Baseball accounts for the most dental injuries in the 7-to-12-year-old age group. For baseball and softball, dentists recommend an ASTM-certified face protector. Basketball accounts for the most dental injuries in the 13-to-17-year-old age group. Wearing a custom-fabricated mouth guard during this time will help your child in maintaining that perfect smile.

Find the right mouth guard
The type of mouth guard matters. Wearing a custom-fabricated mouth guard that your child’s dentist makes after taking an impression of their teeth provides them with superior protection. Early research has also shown a reduction of concussions in children who wear these types of mouth guards. If your athlete is in between losing their baby teeth and getting their permanent teeth or wears braces, a custom-fabricated mouth guard might not be feasible. In these instances, we recommend the mouth-formed/boil-and-bite mouth guard. Just remember that not all mouth guards are made equal, and research has found that stock mouth guards can interfere with breathing and speaking.

Consider the position of your child’s teeth
Children with significant overjet or buck teeth have a greater chance of dental trauma. Parents often ask about early orthodontic care (braces) for these kids. Children with these noticeable front teeth benefit esthetically when we address this type of bite early and limit the chance of trauma to the front teeth.

Help promote protective gear
Parents’ and coaches’ attitudes toward mouth guards also matter. The National Federation of State High School Associations mandates mouth guards for football, ice hockey, lacrosse, field hockey and wrestlers wearing braces. Hopefully, more sports will be included in the list as time goes on.

The earlier your athlete begins practicing with this new protective equipment, the better. Ask your pediatric dentist today how to protect your athlete’s winning smile.

In case of a medical emergency with a child, determine where the nearest accredited, Level I pediatric trauma center is located. St. Louis Children's Hospital has six pediatric ED locations across the St. Louis and southern Illinois region, including St. Louis Children's Hospital, Children's Hospital at Memorial Hospital Belleville, Children's Hospital at Memorial Hospital Shiloh, Children's Hospital at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Children's Hospital at Northwest HealthCare and Children's Hospital at Progress West Hospital.

Read more here about how to keep your kids’ teeth healthy.

Emily Hahn

Emily Hahn, DDS, is a board-certified pediatric dentist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. At her dental clinic within St. Louis Children’s Hospital, she sees medically complex children whom the other specialists at the hospital follow. Dr. Hahn’s passion is in creating a dental environment that suits each child as an individual.


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