Dental Trauma

Dental Trauma: What to Do When Your Child Suffers an Injury to the Teeth

Spring is almost here, and children’s sports are going to be in full swing!  This means an increased risk for injuries to your child’s teeth.

As children grow and learn new things, the risk of injury is relatively high.  Toddlers fall down when they are learning to walk.  Children have accidents when learning to ride a bicycle.  Adolescents suffer trauma when learning to play sports.

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Accidents and injuries happen.  In children, often these accidents involve injuries to the mouth and teeth.  This blog highlights what you need to know about trauma to the teeth.

Different Types of Trauma to the Teeth

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

All of these types of trauma can happen to both baby teeth and permanent teeth.  The consequences of trauma to baby teeth are usually less severe than those for permanent teeth, simply because baby teeth fall out. 

The only serious consequence of trauma to a baby tooth occurs when the trauma affects the underlying permanent tooth as it is developing.  The crown (or visible part) of the permanent tooth forms underneath the roots of the baby tooth.  If an injury occurs which forces the baby tooth or its roots into the developing permanent tooth during this formation stage, the permanent tooth can be deformed.

The majority of injuries to teeth occur on the front of the face and affect front teeth.  It is possible for a back tooth to be injured if a child is hit from the side, for instance with a baseball.  The recommendations below apply to both front teeth and back teeth.

Injuries that Move a Tooth

When force from an injury moves a tooth, it needs to be addressed quickly. 

What You Will See:

The tooth looks whole, but it is in a different position.  It could be pushed up into the gums, hanging down out of the gums, or protruding at an unusual angle.  It is very common to have bleeding in the gums around a tooth that has been moved.

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

In general, the treatment for this type of injury is the same for baby teeth and permanent teeth.  In severe cases, the baby tooth may be extracted.

What You Should Do:

Call your dentist immediately and start heading toward the office.  Attempt to move the tooth back to its normal position using light finger pressure only.  Whether you are able to reposition it or not, go to the dentist for an x-ray of the tooth to evaluate the health of the root, and the bone around the tooth.

Follow-Up Care:

Your child will need a soft diet for a period of a few days up to two weeks.  The goal is no additional pressure on the injured tooth as it is healing.  You may need to give your child over-the-counter pain reliever such as Children’s Advil or Children’s Motrin as needed for pain.

Follow-up with your dentist in 3 months.  He will x-ray the tooth to confirm healing and the health of the tooth and its surrounding structures.

Possible Long-Term Consequences:

When a tooth moves, it is possible that the nerve supply to the tooth has been broken where it enters at the tip of the root.  In many cases, the nerve supply can reattach, and the tooth heals.  In other cases, the nerve does not reattach, and the tissue inside the tooth dies.  A dead nerve must be removed, and the tooth needs a root canal.

The injury to the surrounding structures may also damage the connection between the tooth and the jaw bone.  A condition called ankylosis often develops, in which the tooth becomes fused to the bone and is unable to move.  This is a major concern in orthodontic treatment, when you desire to move that tooth.

Injuries that Chip or Break a Tooth

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If an injury to a tooth causes a portion of the tooth to chip or break off, the consequences are usually a little milder than a tooth that is moved or knocked out.  In minor cases, the small chip can be filled in to return the tooth to its natural shape.  In severe cases, the chip extends into the nerve of the tooth, and a root canal is needed.

What You Will See:

The tooth looks broken or jagged on the edge.  Look specifically for any pink or red spots in the center of the tooth.  This is the nerve inside the tooth, and large breaks may extend this far. 

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

In general, the treatment for this type of injury is the same for baby teeth and permanent teeth.  Minor cases will be restored with filling material. In severe cases, a permanent tooth will need a root canal, and the baby tooth may be extracted.

What You Should Do:

Call your dentist immediately and start heading toward the office.  Try to locate any fragments of the tooth, and bring them with you.  Whether you are able to find it or not, go to the dentist for an x-ray of the tooth to evaluate the health of the root, and the bone around the tooth.  The dentist will evaluate the depth of the chip and determine whether or not the nerve is affected. 

Follow-Up Care:

If you have the tooth fragment, your dentist can reattach it to the tooth.  If not, he can rebuild the tooth back to its normal shape and size. 

Your child will need a soft diet for a period of a few days.  You may need to give your child over-the-counter pain reliever such as Children’s Advil or Children’s Motrin as needed for pain.

Follow-up with your dentist in 3 months.  He will x-ray the tooth to confirm healing and the health of the tooth and its surrounding structures.

Possible Long-Term Consequences:

The force to the tooth, which chipped it, could also have disrupted the nerve supply, as noted above.  Your dentist will monitor the tooth closely for any signs of a dead nerve.  If a root canal become necessary, your dentist will guide you in the steps involved in treatment.  It is important to know that the nerve inside a tooth could die at any point in the future, even decades later.

The tooth could also become ankylosed

The dental treatment, which restores the broken tooth, may need replacement at any point in the future.  Be careful not to use that tooth for anything besides chewing and speaking (i.e. holding hair pins or cutting fishing line).

Injuries that Knock Out a Tooth

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A tooth that is completely knocked out needs immediate action!  The longer you wait, the less chance the tooth has of surviving.

What You Will See:

The tooth is completely gone from the mouth.  Evaluation of the tooth should show the crown (visible part) of the tooth, as well as the root.

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

There is no treatment for knocked out baby teeth.  The child will have a space in that tooth’s site until the permanent tooth comes in.

For a permanent tooth, we make every attempt to save and reattach the natural tooth.

What You Should Do:

Call your dentist immediately and start heading toward the office.  Hold the tooth by the crown ONLY.  Do not touch the root.  If you can, put the tooth back into the socket after very gently rinsing off any dirt or debris.  If you are unable to put the tooth back into the child’s mouth, place it in a cup with milk or saliva.  That’s right: fill up a cup with enough spit to cover the tooth.  Saliva is the best thing to keep the cells and fibers on the knocked-out tooth alive until it can be reimplanted into the mouth.

Whether you are able to reinsert it or not, go immediately to the dentist.  The dentist will clean and reinsert the tooth, using anesthetic if the child is in pain.  The sooner the tooth is reimplanted, the better the chances of its full healing.

Follow-Up Care:

Follow the recommendations for a soft diet and OTC pain relievers noted above.  The dentist will follow-up with you more frequently to confirm healing and reattachment of the tooth.

Possible Long-Term Consequences:

The consequences noted above, a dead nerve and ankylosis, are both highly likely when a tooth is completely knocked out.  Another possible consequence is failure of the tooth to reattach.  In this case, it is necessary to extract the tooth and replace it with a dental implant. 

Adhering to your dentist’s prescribed follow-up schedule will keep you informed of any of these consequences as they occur.

Be Prepared for Injuries to Your Child’s Teeth

As you can see from the instructions listed above, getting in to see your dentist as soon as possible is very important!  Save our number in your phone, and call us at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) as soon as an injury happens.  Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell will treat your child’s emergency and give you all the information you need for the right follow-up care. 

Your Child's First Dental Visit

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

At our Dental Centers in Freeman and Parkston our goal is for every dental visit to be a good one.  We understand that setting the right expectations can help us meet that goal.

When it comes to kids, not knowing what to expect can generate fear, anxiety and/or misbehavior.  Here is what to expect from your child’s first dental visit.

When to Make the Appointment

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have a dental evaluation by their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth, whichever comes first.  The purpose of a dental visit this early in life is not to perform dental treatment.  Education is the main purpose. 

If your child is already past this recommended age, do not worry!  Simply make an appointment as soon as possible.  The visit will vary a little based on the child’s age.  The purpose remains the same.

Educating the Child

If your child is an infant or toddler, the education comes in the form of the experience.  The child learns from the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.  He will see the smiling face of the dentist and his staff and learn what the dental tools look like.  He will hear the normal sounds of a dental office.  He will taste and smell the toothpaste or dental cleaning paste used by the dental hygienist.  And he will feel the gentle touch of the dentist evaluating his mouth.

It is important for parents to know that it is normal and acceptable for a small child to cry.  The dentist or hygienist may use that as an opportunity to look inside the child’s mouth and see as many teeth as possible. 

Educating the Parent

Even more important than the child’s education is the parents’.  The cause of most preventable problems that arise with children’s teeth is a simple lack of information and education.

A Child’s Oral Hygiene

At this dental visit, every parent receives instruction on proper oral hygiene of the child’s teeth and tips on various ways to accomplish this.  Keep in mind that not every technique or trick works on every child.  You may have to try several different approaches before you find the one that works best for you and your child. 

An example of a unique approach to flossing a toddler’s teeth is this:  Sit on the floor cross-legged.  Have your child lay down with his head in your lap and look straight up at you.  When the child opens his mouth, you will be able to easily see and access the teeth for flossing. 

This technique also works well with brushing.  If you use this technique for brushing, use only a pea-sized dot of toothpaste and no water.

Oral hygiene for baby teeth is just as important as it is for permanent teeth.  Do not make it an optional part of the bedtime routine.  This link has some great songs to sing while brushing and flossing your child’s teeth.  We know it can be a chore; do your best to make it a fun one.

A Child’s Nutrition

At the first dental visit, parents are taught how to help prevent cavities with good nutritional choices.  Your dentist will ask questions about current nutritional habits and eating patterns.  The most common error parents make is sending their child to bed with a sippy cup full of juice or milk.  The only thing a child should have access to overnight is water.

A Child’s Habits

Your dentist will assess risk for damage to the teeth and developing jaws by any habits like thumb-sucking or pacifier use.  For more information on these habits, please read our previous blog.

A Child’s Growth and Development

At this visit, the dentist evaluates the teeth and jaws for proper growth and development.  There is a pretty wide range of “normal” when it comes to teeth coming into the mouth.  The dentist’s objective is to detect any abnormalities in a child’s development as early as possible so that you can plan for the future.

For example, your dentist would inform you if there appears to be a deficiency in the growth of the jaws that would require early orthodontic treatment.  We want you to be as prepared as possible for any future dental work.

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 Dental X-rays

Dental x-rays are only taken on children under the age of 5 if there is evidence of a problem.  An x-ray is necessary if a large cavity is present with the risk of spreading infection into the jawbone.  Any injury to the teeth also requires an x-ray.

Around age 5-6 years, we take dental x-rays to evaluate the proper development of permanent teeth underneath the baby tooth roots.

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Fluoride

Professional fluoride treatments are proven to reduce a child’s risk for developing cavities.  We recommend fluoride as a preventive treatment for most children because we strongly believe in prevention.

If you have questions about professional fluoride treatments, please ask Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex, Dr. Serena or your dental hygienist at your next visit.  We are more than happy to discuss the benefits of fluoride and the reasons we strongly recommend it for children.

Is it Time for Your Child’s First Dental Visit?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to set up a happy visit for your child with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell and our fabulous dental hygienists.  They will get you and your child started with a great dental experience.

Interdisciplinary Dentistry

Interdisciplinary Dentistry

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Jack of all trades”; maybe you didn’t know that the rest of that phrase is “ . . . master of none”.  The theory behind this phrase is that a person can be competent in many tasks, but is usually limited to excellence in just a few.  At our dental centers in Freeman, Parkston, and Viborg, we believe that this phrase applies to dentistry.  Because our goal is for each patient to receive excellent care in every realm, we cooperate with medical and dental specialists to accomplish interdisciplinary dentistry. 

We understand that, as a patient, it is more convenient to have all of your dental care performed in one location.  However, when it comes to a choice between convenience and excellence, we will always choose excellence.  When Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena create a customized treatment plan for their patients, they considers what type of practitioner will best perform each individual procedure.  These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, much like a primary care physician may treat a case of high blood pressure in his or her office, but refer out a complicated cardiovascular issue to a cardiologist.

Dental Specialties

The American Dental Association recognizes nine dental specialties in dentistry.  These specialties are characterized by residency programs, which add several years to their education, and certifying boards, which recognize their limitation of practice to a specific specialty.  The nine recognized dental specialties are:

  1. Dental Public Health – promotion of oral health and disease prevention

  2. Endodontics – root canals and surgeries related to infections originating within the tooth

  3. Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology – diagnosis of abnormal lesions and diseases of the oral cavity

  4. Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology – interpretation of images of the head & neck complex, including x-rays and cone beam computed tomography

  5. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery – surgical intervention ranging from simple extraction of teeth to complex realignment of the upper and lower jaws

  6. Orthodontics – realignment of teeth and bite relationships

  7. Pediatric Dentistry – dentistry for children

  8. Periodontics – treatment of diseases and conditions of the supporting structures of the teeth: bones, ligaments, and gum tissue

  9. Prosthodontics – restoration of missing tooth and jaw structures

Many people are surprised to learn that there are currently no recognized specialties for TMJ, cosmetic dentistry, and dental implants.  Advertising claims can be misleading in these areas. 

Why Do Some Dentists Pull Wisdom Teeth, Place Implants or Do Root Canals?

Many general dentists have practiced long enough to determine which procedures they are able to perform with excellence, rather than just being competent.  They will spend more time in continuing education learning the procedures that they love, and will consistently improve their skill in specific techniques.  This is why some general dentists are able to provide excellent treatment in areas another general dentist would refer to a specialist.

On the other hand, you may find that a dentist who used to do root canals in his office no longer does.  It is likely that this dentist has found he is not able to efficiently provide the very best root canal for his patients, and they will receive a more positive long-term success rate by seeing an endodontist for that specific procedure. 

Medical Specialists

As we discussed in a previous blog on how oral health affects your overall health, there are many connections between the mouth and the rest of the body.  As we continue to gather more information about your head & neck with the 3D imaging and continued learning in dentistry, we are better able to recognize these connections and advise you to see the appropriate medical specialist.

The Importance of the General Dentist

In cases where interdisciplinary dentistry is necessary, the general dentist plays an important role.  In addition to performing certain procedures in the care of the patient, the general dentist is instrumental in organizing and coordinating the flow of communication and treatment among the various specialists.  

If you have a complicated dental history and think you need interdisciplinary dentistry, call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! Their commitment to excellent care will ensure you see the proper doctor for each individual procedure your treatment requires.

Pizza Burns, Popcorn Shrapnel, and Tortilla Chip Daggers: Soft Tissue Injuries in Your Mouth

Pizza Burns, Popcorn Shrapnel, and Tortilla Chip Daggers: Soft Tissue Injuries in Your Mouth

Have you ever been so excited for your pizza that you just could not wait for it to cool down?  You are starving.   You cannot wait one more second.   So you take a big bite of piping hot pizza, only to feel the searing pain of a tomato sauce burn on the roof of your mouth instead of the simple gustatory satisfaction of bread, tomatoes, cheese and {insert your favorite topping here}. 

Maybe Mexican food is your weakness.  The chips and salsa start calling your name as soon as you walk in the door.  You toss the whole chip with its twists and turns into your mouth, but when you bite down, a shard stabs into your gums. 

At the movie theater, you eat hot, buttery popcorn by the giant handful.  When one shell of a kernel finds its way between your teeth, you spend the entire movie contorting your tongue to try to work it out and curse yourself for not carrying floss with you at all times.

Most everyone can relate to these slightly over-dramatized examples.  In some cases, the damage is very minor and only bothers you for an hour or two.  In other cases, the injury leads to a painful ulceration or a localized gum infection if not handled correctly.  Here is what you need to know about reducing your risk for these types of injuries and how to handle them when they inevitably happen.

 

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How to Reduce the Risk of Injury

Slow down!  Many of these injuries happen because someone is eating too quickly, not allowing food to cool properly, or taking bites that are too large.  In order to lower your risk of these types of injuries, always wait for your food to cool to a manageable temperature.  Only take bites that are appropriate for your mouth, and chew slowly.  When teeth are aligned properly and chewing is performed at a normal rate, the anatomy of the mouth provides protection for the gum tissues, lips, cheeks and tongue as you chew.

How to Handle a Soft Tissue Injury

Keep your mouth as clean as possible!  The initial injury, whether it is a burn, laceration, or impacted food, can quickly progress to an inflammation or infection if not cleaned properly.  Our mouths are full of bacteria, and it is imperative to keep sores clean until they heal.  Gentle swishing of warm salt water or over-the-counter Peroxyl® mouthrinse can keep the injured site clean and promote rapid healing.

Use mild oral care products.  The injured site can be very tender and overly sensitive.  If you find that your normal mouthrinse and toothpaste cause a stinging or burning sensation to the injured area, you should switch to mild, hypoallergenic products like those made by Biotene.

Alter your diet.  Areas of ulceration or inflammation are easily irritated by very hot temperatures, very spicy foods, and acidic foods and beverages.  In order to keep the injured site as soothed as possible, you should avoid drinking hot coffee or tea.  Do not eat food that is extremely hot; allow it to cool down before taking a bite.  During the healing period, eat a mild diet that is not spicy or acidic.  Steer clear of foods high in tomato or citrus content until the area has resolved.

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Avoid toothpicks.  If you feel that a popcorn kernel or other food debris is lodged between your teeth and gums, do not use a traditional wooden toothpick to attempt retrieval.  Ironically, we have removed more fragments of wooden toothpicks from patient’s gum tissues than popcorn kernels.  Only use dental floss or small interdental brushes (like a Proxabrush) to remove the embedded food particles.

Be careful when flossing.  It is possible to floss too aggressively and cause damage to your gum tissue.  When you floss with the intent to remove a popcorn kernel or other food particle, it is important to be gentle and monitor your progress.  Ideally, you want the floss to reach under the foreign body and pull it out.  If you feel that your flossing is actually pushing the material further into the gum tissue, stop immediately! 

Come see us.  If you are unable to remove a piece of food or debris, it is important to see your dentist sooner rather than later.  The longer the irritant stays in place, the more likely it is to cause inflammation and can lead to infection.  If you have a painful burn or ulceration, we can prescribe a prescription mouthrinse and/or topical ointment to alleviate the painful symptoms and promote healing.

Have You Injured Yourself?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

Aphthous Ulcers (Canker Sores)

Aphthous Ulcers (Canker Sores)

If you have never had a mouth ulcer, thank your lucky stars!  They are terribly painful and interfere with eating, speaking, and brushing your teeth.  The most prevalent type of mouth ulcer is an aphthous ulcer, and it is commonly referred to as a canker sore.  Aphthous ulcers are unusual in that, even now in 2017, we still do not know exactly what causes them.  There are many studies showing correlation between certain diets, vitamin deficiencies, hormone changes, and stress levels with the occurrence of aphthous ulcers.  But correlation is not the same as causation. 

What are aphthous ulcers?

There are three main types of aphthous ulcers: 1) minor, 2) major, and 3) herpetiform.  They all the share similar appearance of a round or oval-shaped ulcer with an inflamed red border around a yellowish-white film that covers the deeper ulceration.

  1. Minor aphthous ulcers are the most common and least painful. They typically are less than 1 cm in diameter and last for 7-14 days.

  2. Major aphthous ulcers are much larger, up to 3 cm, and can last over a month. Due to their increased size and duration, they are much more painful.

  3. Herpetiform aphthous ulcers take their name from herpes lesions (also called cold sores) caused by a Herpes Simplex Virus, which occur in clusters. Herpetiform aphthous ulcers also occur in clusters and can easily be misdiagnosed as viral sores. Herpes viral sores and aphthous ulcers differ in cause and location. There is no virus associated with aphthous ulcers, and they only occur on freely movable mucosa. This includes the inner lining of the lips, cheeks, tongue, floor of mouth and the soft palate. Herpes lesions, or cold sores, occur on the outside of the lips or any attached gum tissue like the hard palate or gums covering the teeth. When herpetiform aphthous ulcers form in a cluster, the ulcers often coalesce or blend together to form one very large, very painful ulcer.

 

What causes aphthous ulcers?

There is currently no scientific data identifying one specific cause of these ulcers.  The research studies have shown a correlation in the occurrence of aphthous ulcers with certain predisposing factors, listed here.

  • Genetics – Some studies suggest a genetic component because children are much more likely (90%) to experience aphthous ulcers if both of their parents have had them.

  • Certain GI problems – There is a high correlation between patients who experience aphthous ulcers and those with gastrointestinal issues like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and Celiac Disease.

  • Vitamin deficiencies – Some studies show a correlation between patients with aphthous ulcers and low levels of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid.

  • Hormone levels – Many women experience aphthous ulcers at regular intervals correlating to their menstrual cycle.

  • Stress – Because stress cannot be quantitatively measured, this one is difficult to prove scientifically. But it’s no surprise to people who suffer with these ulcers that stress can make them more likely to appear.

  • Trauma – This is likely the most common cause of aphthous ulcers. Trauma can range from anything as simple as accidentally biting the inside of your lip or hitting your gums with the toothbrush to routine dental treatment or a complicated oral surgery procedure.

 

How are aphthous ulcers treated?

There are many ways to treat the painful symptoms of aphthous ulcers, but there is no cure to prevent them from recurring.  There are many options available, and it is best to discuss them with Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena to figure out which one is best for your specific ulcers.  Some of the possible treatment options are listed here.

  • A topical gel or paste – Usually a prescription product, this is applied to the ulcer with a Q-tip or clean fingertip multiple times a day. It typically contains a steroid, which reduces the severity and duration of the ulcer, but does not change the frequency of occurrence.

  • A prescription mouthwash – Also used to alleviate symptoms only, this can contain an antibiotic, antifungal, steroid anti-inflammatory, antihistamine (like Benadryl), and antacid (which creates a thick coating over the oral lining). When used 4-6 times per day, it can reduce the symptoms of the painful ulcers.

  • Laser treatments – A laser can be used to treat the ulcer, which reduces inflammation and speeds up the healing process by making changes to the surface of the ulcer.

  • Dietary changes – Patients who are afflicted with frequent or multiple aphthous ulcers and have celiac disease or a

  • gluten intolerance show a marked reduction in ulcer occurrence when gluten is eliminated from their diet. A very recent study has also shown an improvement in occurrence of ulcers when a dairy-free diet is observed. This is based on a new study showing a higher level of antibodies to cow’s milk proteins in patients who have aphthous ulcers.

  • Vitamin therapy – In patients who do show deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid and experienced frequent aphthous ulcers, the ulcer occurrence rate decreased after vitamin therapy to treat those deficiencies.

 

What can I do about aphthous ulcers?

The most important step you can take is contacting your dentist as soon as you notice the lesion.  All of the above treatment modalities are most effective when started early in the life of the ulcer.

Ulcers are aggravated by acidic foods, spicy foods, and hot temperatures, so avoid them in order to reduce your painful symptoms.  Use caution when eating and talking so that you do not reinjure the area and cause the ulcer to last longer.  Cold can temporarily alleviate symptoms, so we do recommend drinking ice water and holding a piece of ice against the ulcer until you see the dentist for other treatment options.

Do you think you have an aphthous ulcer?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!  They will help you get started on the best treatment to reduce the pain and length of your ulcer.  

Athletic Mouthguards

Athletic Mouthguards

People say that having children involved in sports is expensive.  In dentistry, we commonly see one of  the most expensive aspects of sports: injuries.  The bad news is that the injuries themselves are sometimes unavoidable.  The good news is that the damage to the teeth, gums, lips, cheeks and jaws associated with sports injuries is largely preventable by wearing an athletic mouthguard.

Sports injuries to the face are very common and very expensive.  A research study on the use of athletic mouthguards cited some interesting statistics.

“The U.S. surgeon general’s report on oral health identified sporting activities as one of the “principal causes of craniofacial injuries.” Studies have linked sporting activities to nearly one-third of all dental injuries, and approximately one in six sports-related injuries is to the craniofacial area.”

Who needs an athletic mouthguard?

Most people associate sports injuries to the teeth with contact sports like football and hockey.  Interestingly, even non-contact sports such as baseball, gymnastics and cycling have a high incidence of injuries to the mouth.  If there is any chance you could be hit in the mouth by another person, a ball, or the ground, then you need an athletic mouthguard.

How do athletic mouthguards work?

Mouthguards work to prevent or lessen the severity of many types of damage to the mouth that can occur during a sports injury to the face and jaws.  They function by covering the teeth, separating the lips and cheeks from the teeth, and separating the upper and lower teeth from each other.  These three mechanisms of action are listed below with which types of injuries they can prevent or lessen the severity.

1.  Covering the teeth - This covering prevents or lessens the severity of various injuries to teeth.  Examples of injuries to the teeth during sports include:

  • Chipping

  • Luxation (forced movement of the tooth out of its natural position)

  • Root fractures

  • Avulsion (a tooth is knocked completely out with the entire root)

  • Intrusion (a tooth being forced into its socket so that it looks shorter than normal)

  • Necrosis (death of the nerves and blood vessels inside a tooth from blunt force)

2.  Separating the lips and cheeks from the teeth – This separation prevents or lessens the severity of various injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth. 

  • Cuts or lacerations to gum tissue, lips, cheeks, and intraoral muscle attachments

3.  Separating the upper and lower teeth from each other - This separation prevents or lessens the severity of various injuries to the teeth and jaw joints by preventing a harsh impact of upper and lower teeth and jaws.

  • Condylar fractures – The condyles are the “balls” of the ball-and-socket jaw joints. A sharp impact between the upper and lower jaws can cause a fracture of the jaw bone just underneath the condyle.

  • Dislocation of TMJ (jaw joint) disc – The jaw joints each contain a small cartilage disc that separates the ball from the socket. When the lower jaw is hit with an impact, it can force the condyle (ball) off its correct position on the disc. This leads to TMJ dysfunction and may require surgical intervention to repair.

  • Broken back teeth – Any time the upper and lower teeth are forced together with high forces, the back teeth can crack and break. Sometimes, they can be repaired through dental restorations; in other cases, the tooth has a hopeless long-term prognosis and must be extracted.

An important thing to note is that these problems can have long-term consequences requiring dental treatment for decades after the injury. 

What types of athletic mouthguards are available?

There are three main types of mouthguards: stock, boil-and-bite, and custom.  The stock and boil-and-bite type mouthguards are available over the counter, and a dentist makes the custom mouthguard.  Because a custom mouthguard is made from a model of a patient’s teeth, it will have a better fit and should be very comfortable.  There is typically a direct correlation between cost and comfort; i.e. a stock mouthguard will be very inexpensive and very uncomfortable.  The more comfortable a mouthguard is, the more likely the athlete will be to wear it regularly. 

How do I take care of my athletic mouthguard?

Do not clench on the mouthguard or chew it while you are wearing it.  This will speed up the normal wear and tear and cause you to need a replacement much sooner than average.

After every use, rinse it.  The best thing to do is to clean it with a soft toothbrush and cold water.  You can use liquid hand soap if necessary. 

When not in use, store it in its vented case in a cool, dry area.

Do not allow it to get hot because it will lose its shape.  This includes leaving it in your car!  

Do you or your child need an athletic mouthguard?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!