Dental Injuries - Avoiding That "Hockey" Look

By Kent Smith DDS -- The Irving Journal

With the beginning of summer comes the beginning of dental injuries. Well, not the beginning, but we certainly see a rise in the incidence. Children are out of school, the weather calls them outdoors, and they love to go fast. They love to go really fast.

Relax. This has been going on since legs were created. Years later, we discovered how to place wheels beneath the body for even more speed, but mankind (boykind) has ever since vacillated between what is most dangerous during summer months in Texas: wheels attached to shoes; wheels attached to wood or fiberglass (on which said boy plants his feet); or wheels attached to a frame. When boys grow up, they spend $4,000 on a Segway powered by gyroscopes so they can't fall down anymore unless you're the President.

Now, I have been using the male gender so far because this is what we see in the office. Soon after turning ten, boys show up holding a piece of their front tooth. Like clockwork. This is why you need to pay attention to this piece of advice if you have a ten-year old son. Let him play Nintendo 16 hours a day this summer. I know his mind will be fried, but hey, I'm a dentist. I have my priorities.

Actually, children have invented numerous methods for creatively reshaping their incisors and this isn't exclusive of males, although they seem to be the most creative. Many activities can be equally as destructive as those related to wheels. Water skiing, baseball, trampolines and bunji-jumping from your apartment balcony can all give you that "hockey" look.

So, what's a conscientious parent to do? Most importantly, remind your children to wear protection. Published information from the National Institute of Dental Research shows that children do not consistently wear protective gear during organized sports, and I would conclude from this that unorganized sports have a track record even further down the compliance scale. By urging children to wear protective gear correctly and consistently, parents, coaches and other adults can help save a lot of teeth from damage or loss.

Baseball and softball are the top choices among organized sports for children in the United States, according to the NIDR. Next is soccer, then football. In Texas, however, football is king, and scientists found nearly three-fourths of kids in organized football wore protective gear all or most of the time. That's partly because rules established in 1962 require the use of protective headgear and mouthguards.

What lesson can be learned from this? Before these rules, half of all football injuries were to the mouth and face. Now, facial and dental injuries account for less than 2 percent of injuries in football. The rules obviously work. However, such rules don't exist for all sports. So, parental support and encouragement is needed to make sure similar success in injury prevention is matched in other sports. For example, it's estimated that 41 percent of all baseball injuries are to the head, face, mouth and eyes, yet researchers found that mouthguards are rarely worn and helmets are worn only for some positions.

Headgear, faceshields and mouthguards have been developed already for use in baseball and softball, and I would encourage parents to urge leagues to require kids to use them and set a good example by requiring that their children wear the gear. Me? I've got four girls, and I'm trying to convince the ballet to require mouthguards. I'll keep you updated.

It is now recommended that mouthguards be worn not only for organized football, baseball and ballet, but also for basketball, racquetball, soccer, ice, field, and street hockey, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, volleyball, roller blading, skating, skateboarding, and bicycling. Not necessarily a sport, I would add anyone in the general vicinity of my golf swing to that list.

Mouthguards have been shown to reduce trauma not only to teeth, gums, and the surrounding jaw bone, but also to reduce injury to the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and to reduce the intensity and number of head concussions. Additionally, they reduce pressure and bone deformation of the skull when a force is directed to the chin.

Mouthguards can be purchased in pharmacies and sports supply stores and molded at home. They can also be custom made by your dentist. Store-bought mouthguards are less expensive than custom made ones. However, the store-bought ones may not fit the athlete's mouth, may become loose, may be uncomfortably bulky, and may interfere with speech or breathing. If you have questions, just ask your dentist. You can find me at the ballet cringing.

Kent Smith is a dentist in Las Colinas with 21st Century Dental, and can be reached through his web site at or at 972.255.3712

Back to Education and News