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Preventing sports related injuries in kids

Dr. Graber is an orthodontist in private practice with his daughter, Dr. Katie Graber, in Vernon Hills, Illinois. He earned his D.D.S. at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and received his orthodontic education at Northweste...

Importance of mouth guards

A sports-related injury can happen in an instant. Without the proper protective gear, young athletes could find themselves on the bench instead of on the field this summer. Despite their known benefits, many youngsters are not wearing mouth guards during sports competitions and practices. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), 67 percent of parents said their child does not wear a mouth guard while playing baseball, soccer, hockey, basketball and many other contact sports.

Child playing hockeyImportance of a mouth guard

A mouth guard can prevent or minimize injuries to the gums, teeth and jaws by acting as a barrier between the child's mouth and fast-moving sports equipment or opponents. Our job as orthodontists is to help our patients obtain healthy, beautiful smiles. The last thing we want to see is a patient injured and sidelined because they weren't properly equipped. That's where moms come in.

Simple and inexpensive protective sports gear – such as mouth guards – can make a big difference in reducing or preventing sports injuries. That's why the AAO is encouraging moms across the country to keep their children's smiles safe during organized and recreational sports and take the Moms For Mouth Guards Pledge. For every pledge received, the AAO will donate mouth guards to the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

Protective gear needed

Rehabilitation costs for a single knocked out tooth can run into the thousands of dollars over a lifetime. The following are a few tips to keep in mind to help protect a young athlete's smile–

"Play It Safe" by remembering to:

  1. Wear mouth guards for contact sports.

  2. Wear a helmet.

  3. Wear protective eyewear.

  4. Wear a face shield to avoid scratched or bruised skin.

  5. Be alert even as a spectator.

Special tips for tooth injuries and braces

  • If your child suffers dental trauma such as a knocked-out or broken tooth, contact your family or pediatric dentist for immediate attention.
  • Young athletes with braces should always wear a mouth guard; orthodontists can recommend what is best for individual patients. Lips and gums can suffer cuts if orthodontic patients without proper protection take a hit to the mouth with a ball, stick or elbow.
  • Damage to braces can lengthen treatment time; contact the orthodontist for advice if brackets or wires are dislodged.

For more information about the Moms For Mouth Guards program and to sign the Moms For Mouth Guards Pledge, visit www.momsformouthguards.org and to find an orthodontist near you, visit "Find an Orthodontist" on www.braces.org, or ask your dentist for a referral.

Orthodontists receive an additional two to three years of specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth. Only those who have successfully completed this formal education may call themselves "orthodontists," and only orthodontists are eligible for membership in the American Association of Orthodontists.

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