During the summer, our children spend more time outside on the playground, at the park and on the sports field. Little League is in full swing, as is summer soccer and other contact sports. Naturally, it follows that our children are at a higher risk for dental injuries with these activities. Of the 3 million annual dental injuries that occur in the US, approximately 80% include damage to one or more front teeth, as well as to the soft tissues of the tongue, lips and inside of the cheeks.
Here are some tips to prevent your child from experiencing one of the 3 million dental injuries that occur every year here in the US.
Baby Teeth Injuries
Babies often injure their baby teeth when learning to walk. It’s important that your little one have adults around to be sure he doesn’t fall onto a table, fireplace edge, tub faucet, ceramic floor or other sharp surface and break a tooth or injure his face. Baby gates must be securely attached with screws to the doorway, as a baby can lean against the gate for support only to topple the gate over and fall facedown on a hard floor surface. Be alert to hard toys that your child may put into her mouth because, if she falls, she may damage her teeth by falling upon the item or, worse, choke if a piece breaks off. Never leave a baby on a changing table unattended, even for a second, as a fall could not only injure your baby’s teeth but result in a fracture or other traumatic injury.
There are a myriad of protective applications that you can purchase to provide temporary protection. Good Housekeeping’s childproofing website is an excellent site, because they have reviewed various brands to advise you on the best and safest choices.
Helmets are Essential
Whether it’s bike riding, trampoline jumping or contact sports like softball, soccer, or football, your child needs to wear a helmet designed specifically for that sport. Yes, it makes their heads hot. Yes, your child may feel embarrassed because their friends’ parents don’t make them wear a helmet, but better that than missing teeth or a concussion, right?
Have the helmet fitted at the sporting goods store by a staff member who knows exactly how it should fit on various head sizes. Make sure your child understands the importance of wearing it and how to put it on (straps, snaps, etc). And avoid purchasing a helmet online! While it may save you money, it’s impossible to judge the fit without a personal try-on. This also applies to passing down helmets from one child to another one: not all heads are shaped the same and your 3-year-old child’s head might actually be larger than his older sister’s!
When playing any sport, it’s imperative that your child wear a mouth guard to protect against falls, flying objects, elbows and other concussive events. While you can purchase a mouth guard from the sporting goods store, as well as nearly any large box store, a custom-fitted mouth guard provides the very best protection and is much less expensive than replacing a missing tooth!
In some sports, a face cage offers enhanced protection, such as for the soccer or hockey goalie or the catcher in baseball. Again, check to be certain it’s properly fitted to your child’s facial frame, as it’s likely that face cage was used for several years and multiple children, all of which may have a facial structure vastly different than your child’s.
What To Do in a Dental Emergency
Your child fell or met the elbow of another player and a tooth is loose or knocked out. What should you do?
- Check your child’s mouth to assess the damage. Mouth injuries are notoriously bloody even with a minor injury. Is a tooth loose or missing? Is there a laceration inside the mouth or on the lips?
- If there is a loose or missing tooth, call us immediately for our advice.
- If a baby tooth was knocked out, it’s unlikely that any permanent problems with eating or speech development will occur.
- If a permanent tooth was knocked out, immediately do the following:
- If possible, try to insert the tooth back in the socket as soon as possible.
- Touch the tooth only on the crown area. Do not touch the root. The crown is that part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth, ie, what you might call the “top” of the tooth.
- Place the tooth in a container of balanced solution. Many sports teams and schools have a first aid kit with a “Save a Tooth” cup, which holds Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution. Other options include milk, contact solution or saliva.
- If you have no cup, place the tooth in a wet gauze or clean cloth that’s been soaked in milk, contact solution or saliva.
- If the child is old enough not to swallow the tooth, have her keep the tooth inside her mouth in her cheek until we see her in the office.
- DO NOT place the tooth in plain water.
If your child knocks out a permanent tooth, the chances for reimplantation are highest if we can see your child within 30 minutes of the traumatic event.