Anyone who plays contact sports is probably well aware of the dangers associated with their favorite activity, including the potential for injuries of every stripe. Even athletes who enjoy less risky pursuits like jogging, cycling, or tennis, just for example, could experience injuries related to their physical activity of choice.

In addition to common injuries like sprains, strains, and broken bones, many athletes could also suffer from sports-related dental injuries. In fact, it is estimated than anywhere from about 13-39% of dental injuries occur as a result of playing sports, and some studies suggest that as many as 80% of children and adults participating in sports could suffer from a related dental injury at some point. Naturally, risk factors are higher with contact sports like rugby, football, basketball, hockey, boxing, and martial arts, just for example, but this doesn’t exclude the risk of injury in non-contact sports.

This isn’t to say you should quit your favorite sporting pursuits for fear of suffering oral trauma or losing a tooth, but you do need to be aware of risks so that you can act accordingly. Here are a few things you should know if you want to prevent and treat sports-related dental injuries.

Practice Safety and Preventive Measures If you play a sport like football or hockey, there’s not a lot you can do to lessen the impact of contact with other players. However, you can take steps to protect your teeth and preserve your oral health in the event that you are hit in the mouth or head. Many of these sports already require participants to wear helmets and/or mouth guards for safety reasons, especially in youth sports programs.

As an adult, you may not be required to wear such safety gear, depending on the league you join. This is especially true if you simply play pickup games with family and friends. However, you are responsible for your own health and safety, whether you’re playing with an established local league or you’re simply having fun with friends. Depending on the activity you enjoy, you should consider wearing a helmet and a mouth guard to protect your oral health and your overall health and safety.

You can find both suitable helmets and generic mouth guards at most sporting goods stores or online. However, if you’re in need of a mouth guard, you’re better off getting a custom fit at your dentist’s office. These custom dental guards are pricier than the generic variety, but they offer the best protection for your teeth, your jaws, and the soft tissues of your mouth (gums, cheeks, lips, and tongue).

If you simply can’t afford a custom mouth guard, a generic one is better than nothing, and you can find options that you boil to soften them and then bite to shape them to your teeth. They aren’t as good as a custom, fitted mouth guard, though, so if you play sports frequently, it’s worth shelling out the dough for the real deal.

Don’t Wait to See Your Dentist Any time you suffer trauma to the mouth while playing sports, you need to contact your dentist immediately. For minor trauma, options like icing and over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs (that reduce inflammation) may suffice. However, you don’t want to assume that this is all you need without first being properly and professionally diagnosed.

If trauma to teeth is worse than you think, you could be at increased risk for tooth decay and even tooth loss as a result. Your dentist needs to evaluate your condition as soon as possible to assess the level of trauma and come up with a plan for treatment. Suppose a tooth is cracked or chipped. You might not notice until infection has set in and further compromised the health of the tooth and perhaps your oral health in general.

There are dentists that specialize in treating sports injuries, but you’ll probably want to visit your regular dentist first. In most cases, your dentist will be able to assess and treat your injury, and if damage is too severe, your dentist can always refer you to a specialist. This is the best way to preserve your oral health and prevent further damage from occurring.

dental implant

Dentistry has been around for centuries in one form or another. Evidence exists that even ancient Egyptians practiced oral hygiene and complex dentistry (fillings, bridges, and more), and dental practices like basic tooth drilling can be found as far back as 7,000 B.C.E. The only difference today is that we have more advanced medical facilities, equipment, materials, and techniques.

It wasn’t that long ago that losing teeth meant filling the gaps with dentures made from ivory, gold, and even lead. The story of George Washington’s wooden dentures is nothing more than an enduring myth, and it’s a good thing. Can you imagine the splinters?

These days, losing a tooth is not the end of the world. It can be upsetting, but the good news is there are several options for replacement. In addition to dentures or bridgework, many people have the option to install dental implants, which consist of a titanium post that bonds to your jaw bone for strength and support, as well as a crown, or false tooth, that attaches to the post and looks and acts just like the natural tooth you lost.

Of course, there is a caveat. In order to be eligible for a dental implant, you must have good oral health and you need to have adequate jaw bone to support the implant. What if you don’t have enough jaw bone? Are you stuck with dentures or is there another option? Here’s what you need to know.

Tooth Loss and Bone Loss When you lose a tooth, the conditions that caused it could also affect your jaw bone. This is especially true if your tooth loss was due to decay or severe infection, just for example. What’s worse, though, is that the gap left by a missing tooth can lead to deterioration of the portion of the jaw that once supported that tooth. If you’ve been missing a tooth for a while, your jaw may no longer be adequate to support an implant.

Unfortunately, you also have to start with a healthy mouth before you can consider the implant procedure. If you’re dealing with an infection or abscess that has spread to the jaw or surrounding gum tissue, you’ll need to work with your dentist to clear it up before you get an implant, and this could take weeks or months to accomplish, depending on the severity of your situation.

During this time, your jaw bone can weaken and deteriorate even further, so that when you are free of infection and in good oral health, your jaw is no longer suitable for an implant. This can be extremely frustrating and disappointing.

Ideally, your mouth will be healthy when you lose a tooth so that you can start the process of installing the implant immediately, before any bone loss occurs. In reality,

you may have to wait for an implant. If, however, your bone is in good shape, you should be okay to get an implant within about six months of tooth loss.

Building Up the Bone Even if you don’t start out as a good candidate for dental implants, there are steps you could take to become a good candidate. If you don’t have enough jaw bone to support an implant, you can build up the bone through grafting.

This procedure involves taking your own bone from other areas of the body where it isn’t needed and grafting it to your jaw bone to build enough volume to support an implant. Bone is most often taken from another part of the mouth and it generally takes a minimum of about three months to fuse with existing bone and become strong enough to support an implant.

Depending on your situation, others procedures like sinus elevation/augmentation or ridge expansion may be necessary, and these could add several months of healing time to your treatment schedule before implant is possible. There are also no-bone treatment options under development, but bone grafts are the tried-and-true method for preparing deficient jaw bone to receive implants.

End Results For patients that lack sufficient jaw bone to support implants, grafting could provide a solution. It may not work for every patient, especially if severe trauma or infection affected the area. You should speak to your dentist about the possibility of implants to find out if you’re a good candidate or if augmentation of existing bone is an option to make dental implants viable.

Aging And Your Teeth

Your teeth are resilient and strong, even with all the gnashing and chewing and grinding they will do over the years. But you have to take care of them. Your teeth age right along with you; there is no stopping the march of Father Time. Years and years of wear and tear do add up, and definitely take a toll on your teeth.

A few things that can affect your teeth as you age are:

  • Gum DiseaseGum Disease. The risks of gum disease increase with age. Little pockets form at the gum line where bacteria can grow. If left untreated, bacterial infections can cause damage to connective tissue and bone, leading to tooth loss. So, brush and floss twice a day, use a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol, and visit your dentist twice a year.
  • Wear and Tear. The function of your teeth is mechanical…to mash and grind food to make it digestible. For the most part teeth are resistant to cracking and chipping; they do not become more brittle with age. But dentists often see patients with chips and cracks, commonly from biting down hard on something like an olive pit or a kernel of un-popped corn. Bruxism or teeth grinding caused by stress is another common cause of tooth wear and tear. So, check your popcorn and olives, avoid chewing ice, and ask your dentist to check for signs of bruxism.
  • Two of the biggest threats to your teeth are sugars and starches. These carbohydrates ferment and cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids. The acids eat away at the enamel of your teeth; tiny pits form and tooth decay finds those pits. The result is cavities. Sweetened carbonated beverages are especially problematic since carbonation increases acid levels in the mouth. So, avoid frequent snacking, take it easy on sugary foods, carbonated soft drinks and sports drinks, cap your sugar craving by chewing sugarless gum, and pay attention to your daily dental hygiene.

At StarWhite Dental we want you to have a bright and happy smile all the years of your life!

Call us at (951) 698-4426 to schedule an appointment, today.