Sports are a formative aspect of many young children’s lives, providing a time when they can exercise, hang out with friends, and engage in a potentially lifelong hobby. However, it’s also true that a significant number of pediatric dental emergencies happen while playing sports, with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry estimating that sports accidents account for 10 to 39 percent of all tooth injuries in children. Dental injuries in sports can be scary when they happen, but following these tips can help you get your child the best treatment when they do and prevent tooth injuries from happening in the future.

What Are the Most Common Childhood Tooth Injuries in Sports?

Dental injuries in sports can happen to children of any age, but toddler tooth injuries are more common due to smaller children’s natural lack of coordination and situational awareness. Some of the most common tooth injuries in children’s sports fall into a few different categories.

Damaged Roots

These are perhaps the most serious dental injuries in sports and can often happen from a toddler gum injury or other physical trauma that dislodges or otherwise damages the parts of the tooth underneath the gum line. Because the root anchors the tooth in the mouth and houses many of the structures that supply the tooth with blood, damaged roots are difficult to repair and the affected tooth will usually either need a root canal treatment or be extracted entirely.

Broken/Chipped Teeth

A broken, cracked, or chipped tooth is a very common tooth injury in children and older athletes and is usually the result of trauma to the tooth from contacting a hard piece of equipment or even the teeth contacting each other. Chips and cracks can happen with different severity, from a small chip to a crack that bisects the whole tooth, and treatment is usually case specific.

Avulsed or “Knocked Out” Teeth

Certainly the most noticeable of dental injuries in sports, trauma to the tooth can fully dislodge it from the mouth in what is called an avulsion or being “knocked out.” Because of the amount of force it takes to knock out teeth, the injury may also come with trauma to the surrounding tissue or even facial bones.

What to Do if You Have a Dental Injury From Sports?

It can be scary when your child has a dental emergency, but a dental injury is rarely ever life-threatening on its own, and most can be treated quickly and effectively with the right care. If your child suffers a tooth injury while playing sports, start by remaining calm and helping your child to do the same. They will probably be in some amount of pain or discomfort, so it’s important to remind them that they will be ok and any damage is treatable.

Depending on the nature of the injury, care steps will look slightly different, but with any dental emergency (even a broken baby tooth or especially painful child toothache), you should start by immediately calling your child’s dentist and describe what happened and the nature of the injury. Depending on the severity, they will probably ask you to come in for an emergency appointment where the dentist can assess the extent of the injury and decide on a proper treatment protocol. If your child is in pain while you are waiting for or on the way to your appointment, you can gently manage their discomfort with some ice wrapped in a clean cloth and applied to the outside of the face near the injury. This will help with any swelling. You might also consider administering a child-safe, over-the-counter pain medication if your dentist has approved it.

What to Do if a Tooth Comes Out?

In any tooth injury in children where a piece of the tooth or the entire tooth is dislodged from the mouth, it’s crucial that you recover the pieces or the tooth if possible. In a sports setting, this might mean stopping play for a moment and asking everyone present to step carefully as you attempt to recover the dental pieces. If you can recover them, put the pieces of tooth or whole tooth in a small cup of milk or even saliva and bring them with you to your emergency appointment. Saliva or milk protects the parts of the tooth that are still alive, and in certain cases, a fully knocked-out tooth can be reinserted by a dentist. Even pieces of the tooth can be reattached using special dental resin. Do not rinse off the tooth or tooth pieces, as water can remove crucial elements of the blood supply that keeps the tooth alive.

How to Avoid Tooth Injuries During Sport?

When it comes to preventing dental injuries in sports, preparedness is key. Always start by investing in the proper safety gear required to play the sport—a properly fitting helmet, mouth guard, padding, etc. For younger children, encourage them to run with their heads up and look forward as opposed to looking down at their feet. That way, they can see obstacles and other players before colliding with them.

Always encourage your children to maintain proper awareness when they are on the field or playing their sport and to avoid distractions like cell phones until they are finished playing. It’s also important that children use sports equipment in the way it is intended and not attempt any dangerous or unnecessary maneuvers that could put them in danger.

Visit Your Pediatric Dentist

However, all the preparedness in the world can’t prevent every accident, unfortunately, and if a child’s dental injury does happen, it’s important to have a children’s family dentistry practice that you trust on hand to provide crucial care when it is needed. Champagne Pediatric Dentistry has decades of experience in providing emergency dental care in a setting that helps children remain calm and get on the road to healing. Don’t wait until the worst happens; call today and make an initial appointment so you can build trust between your child and their new family dentist!