The warm weather beckons children outside to play. Whether they participate in organized sports or enjoy pick-up games with friends, sports are a way to remain physically active and pass the days of summer in a fun way. A variety of leading oral health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association, have teamed up to remind parents, coaches and athletes to play safely when they're playing sports.
A child or young adult's mouth and face can be easily injured if the proper precautions are not used while participating in sports or recreational activities. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the seven million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by children as young as five years old.
In 2012, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation forecasted that more than three million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events. They also reported that athletes who don't wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth. Yet, in a survey commissioned by the American Association of Orthodontists, 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports.
At a time when a good football helmet or hockey stick may cost a few hundred dollars, mouth guards remain inexpensive pieces of protective equipment. Mouth guards save teeth and protect the jaw. When a mouth guard is working properly, it will hold teeth in place, resist tearing and allow for normal speech and breathing. Rely on a dental professional to recommend a properly fitted mouth guard for a vast array of sporting activities.
Here are some additional sports safety tips to consider to reduce young athletes' risk of injury.
* Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports. Mouth guards can help prevent injury to a person's jaw, mouth and teeth, and they are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury. Dentists and dental specialists can make customized mouth guards to provide the best fit. Other less-expensive options are the boil and bite mouth guards, which are softened in boiling water to fit the mouth, and stock mouth guards, which are ready-to-wear but may not fit as well as their customized counterparts.
* Wear a helmet. Helmets absorb the energy of an impact and help prevent damage to the head.
* Wear protective eyewear. Eyes are extremely vulnerable to damage, especially when playing sports.
* Wear a face shield. Rely on a face shield to avoid damage to the delicate bones around the eyes, nose and jaw. Hockey pucks, basketballs and racquetballs can cause severe facial damage to athletes of any age.
Summertime is an opportunity to engage in recreational sporting activities. Athletes of all ages should wear the appropriate safety gear while competing to greatly reduce their risk of injury.