Athletes are taught from a young age the importance of protecting their body from the potential injuries that can occur on the playing field. They also probably put some thought into feeding their body good foods to keep it healthy and in top shape. But in all this concern for maintaining a healthy body that can excel on the field, there’s a good chance they are skipping out on one big piece of the puzzle… Their mouth health!
How to protect teeth as a young athlete
We put so much effort into protecting our young ones’ shins, knees and heads while they play sports, but is the same effort put into protecting their teeth? Often not, and that can result in damage and pain that is harder to fix down the road, and might even leave them sidelined. The best way to protect a young athlete’s teeth is to take preventative measures. There are 3 key ways to do this:
Keep the sugary sports drinks off the bench
The sugar from sports drinks can react with the bacteria in your athlete’s mouth, creating an acid that will eat away at their teeth and cause cavities. Encourage them to hydrate with plain water to help keep those acids away from their teeth.
Practice good dental habits daily
The daily practice of brushing and flossing helps to keep teeth healthy and strong. Healthy teeth are less likely to get damaged during sports, and are better able to stand strong against any possible decay that might send your athlete to a dentist’s chair rather than onto the field.
Wear a mouth guard
For some sports, this might seem like overkill but there really is no good substitute for protecting teeth during sports activity. It might feel weird at first, but your young athlete will get comfortable with a mouth guard fairly quickly and it will feel like a part of their uniform in no time. While some sports require mouth guards in order to play, others don’t yet. It’s hard to deny their ability to protect teeth, though! Any sport that might possibly involve contact with other players, a ball or a hard surface should be played with a mouth guard.
A mouthguard is typically worn over the top teeth and will prevent against chipping or breaking in the event of an impact to their face. They can even reduce the likelihood and severity of concussions.
How to choose a mouthguard
Athletic mouthguards can be bought over the counter at most pharmacies and sports stores, but those might not be the best choice. These OTC mouthguards aren’t formed to your young athletes’ teeth so they won’t offer as good of a fit as a customized one. While most dentists won’t recommend these ones, they are a better choice than nothing at all.
A better option, and one that is still affordable, is a mouth guard referred to as a ‘boil and bite’ guard. The mouth guard is heated then placed in the athletes’ mouth so they can bite down and form the guard to their teeth. These are typically more comfortable to wear, which is important when just starting out wearing mouthguards. If your child is too uncomfortable they are more likely to skip wearing it!
The most comfortable option, though not the cheapest, is to see your dentist for a custom fit mouth guard. If your child has any significant mouth concerns such as braces or a cleft palate this is the best route to take.
Protect teeth during sports to prevent damage
Taking steps to prevent mouth damage in sports is just as important as protecting shins, knees and heads. Dental problems are no fun to have to deal with, especially in athletes who don’t like to take time off from sports. Teaching young athletes how to protect their mouth health is the best way to set them up for success in the long run. And don’t forget to schedule regular cleanings with your dentist to stay on top of any possible issues!