Sports and Teeth: A Never-Ending Battle

Whether you are a professional athlete or simply someone who enjoys a variety of sports, it is essential to protect your teeth when playing sports that put your dental health at risk. Sports such as rugby, soccer, boxing, kickboxing, martial arts, hockey, netball, basketball, skateboarding and roller-blading can all put your teeth and jaw at risk. Even swimming can affect your dental health, without being dangerous or even close-contact.

If you play one or more sports that can be considered dangerous for your teeth, you will need to protect your teeth carefully to avoid the risk of damage and injury. In this mini guide, we share some simple tips on how to ensure that your favourite sport does not have to affect your dental health.

How to Protect Your Teeth While Playing Sports

The good news is that there are a few ways that you can reduce the potential for damage. Some of the ways that you can protect your teeth as a professional or recreational athlete include the following:

Invest in custom-fit mouth guards.

Mouth guards are vital for any type of sport that involves balls, bats, hockey sticks or full contact of any kind. This device protects your entire mouth by adding a cushioned layer over your gums and teeth. Although you can find cheap mouth guards at most chemists and sporting stores, one-size-fits-all mouth guards do not provide the same level of protection that custom-fit mouth guards offer. Speak to your dentist to get a guard that fits your mouth without causing discomfort. A custom guard will also ensure a better fit, which in turn will provide better protection.

Wear helmets and protective hear that provide full protection.

That does not mean that you should not wear protective gear as well. Mouth guards provide some protection, but helmets are necessary for all sports that have a high chance of head or mouth injury. Cricket bowlers, for example, require helmets to avoid the chance of being hit in the face with a very hard cricket ball. Although South African rugby players do not require helmets, many amateur boxers and kickboxers are required to wear cushioned headgear before getting in the ring. Cycling, roller-blading and skateboarding also require helmets, as these sports have a high chance of accidents. Always wear the appropriate headgear for the sport you are participating in to make sure that you get full protection.

Avoid overly low pH waters when swimming.

Although swimming is not associated with head injury or broken teeth, exposure to acid water can cause issues over time if you spend a great deal of time in the water. A well-maintained pool that has a regulated pH level is the best way to protect your teeth from excessive enamel erosion. Over time, this erosion can cause teeth to become sensitive and yellowed. Another way to prevent this is to try and swim with your mouth closed so that chlorinated water does not make contact with your teeth.

Seek help as quickly as possible if injury occurs.

If you experience any trauma to the teeth or gums, seek help immediately to determine whether treatment is required. If any teeth are loose, chipped, painful, broken or removed completely, you will require treatment as quickly as possible. In the case of a tooth that has been knocked out completely, you may need a bridge or implant, or you may be able to have the tooth re-implanted. If the entire tooth or big part of a horizontally fractured tooth fractures and fall out, you can store it in milk, water or your own saliva in a container till you take it to the dental practitioner who will splint the tooth to the adjacent teeth and try and save your  tooth by re-establishing the blood supply and growth of surrounding soft tissue and bone .You will require dental x-rays in most cases to assess any damage. Your dentist can then determine the best course of treatment. Left untreated, dental injuries can cause serious complications that may not be as easy to treat. Untreated infections can spread to the rest of the body, causing health issues, pain and other problems.

When all else fails, the smart way to protect your teeth at all times is to make sure that you have the right gear and always speak to your dentist in Durban for expert advice.