An Inside Look Into Sports Dentistry

According to my Salt Lake Dentist, “Sports injuries cost United States (population 260 Million) about $14.4 billion per year and even more alarming is that 30-50% of these injuries are preventable. Participation in sport both positive and negative, will always be a major health consideration. There is actually a lot more to sports dentistry then most people realize.

The big challenge of sports participation is maximizing benefits while simultaneously limiting injuries. Sports dentistry plays a significant role in this challenge. The key elements for minimizing injury are prevention and proper preparation.  Sports dentistry aims to prevent oral and facial trauma during sporting events through proper instruction, and utilization of custom protective gear.

Injury prevention in sports takes more than just education it also requires the right equipment. Properly fitted mouth-guards are essential for all contact sports like boxing, mixed martial arts, lacrosse, and football. Mouth-guards should also be worn during other sports not traditionally considered contact sports but never the less lead to serious oral injuries. Sports such as basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, and skateboarding.

The National Youth Sports Foundation reports that, dental injuries are by far the most common type of oral injuries suffered as a result of sports participation. When a tooth is knocked out during play it must be promptly and properly preserved and or replanted or the victim will be looking at a life time of dental procedures, hours spent in the dental chair and an estimated cost of $10-15,000 per tooth.

Treatment of oral and facial injuries, are not always treated in the confines of a dental office in most sporting injuries diagnosis and treatment will be done on site. Working with limited tools a sports dentist must make correct assessments about the type of injury, the severity, and the best treatment options. On site treatments and diagnosis require a superior knowledge and understanding of oral and facial injuries.

Prevention is the main goal of any oral health provider. An essential part of preventing facial sports injuries is routine preseason screenings and examinations. A thorough preseason examination will include athlete health history, cavities, plaque buildup, jaw alignment, orthodontics, loose teeth, poor dental habits, crown and bridge work condition, missing teeth, artificial teeth wear, and wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth should be extracted months prior to playing competitive sports in order to not interfere with competition. Decaying teeth are weakened and need to be treated before any serious trauma has a chance to destroy the teeth.

One of the most important parts of preventing oral injury is providing the proper fitting. A Dentist will be able to determine what specific type and design of mouth-guard is right for a particular athlete based on the condition of their mouth. The design and fabrication of a mouth-guard is extremely important. There are four basic types of mouth-guards; Stock, Boil and Bite, Custom Vacuum Made, and Pressure Laminated. The biggest challenge facing sports dentistry today is the common use of stock and boil mouth-guards. These dental protectors fail to adequately fit the unique size, condition, and shape of an athletes mouth. Ill-fitting guards leads to thousands of preventable injuries to athletes every single year.

Sports Dentistry also encompasses the recognition and referral guidelines of proper medical personnel for all non-dental injuries which may typically accompany a sports facial injury. Typical impact injuries can include, concussions, neck injuries, and even drug use. A dentist should not attempt to treat these types of injuries but should be able to recognize them and refer them to the proper health professional for treatment.

Dentists must also be able to recognize symptoms of anorexia and bulimia during routine examination. These all to common eating disorders are sadly common among female athletes. Especially seen in sports like woman’s gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball. These athletes need to be referred to proper medical professionals special trained to handle these conditions.

Sports Dentistry faces a big challenge of educating and properly preparing athletes for the health risks associated with athletics. It is important that education increase and prevention improve. Your teeth are unable to heal themselves and thus prevent is the only way to prevent permanent damage.