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Sports & Your Child’s Teeth

For many children, sports are a central part of their life, beginning as soon as they can swing a (plastic) bat and lasting through their high school years and beyond. Sports provide many life lessons, help develop character, problem solving skills, physical fitness, and so many other benefits. They can also, however, be detrimental to oral health, if proper precautions are not put in place. Here are a couple things to consider as the sports season gets underway.


Sports Drinks

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated while participating in any sort of physical activity, and especially during the warm months of the year. Sports drinks, with their array of tempting flavors and the purported benefit of containing essential electrolytes to replenish lost nutrients, are often an enticing option.

However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, consuming sports drinks can lead to tooth decay and obesity. The top ingredients in sports drinks often include citric acid and high fructose corn syrup, which are a devastating combination for tooth health. Citric acid affects the natural pH of the mouth, creating a more acidic environment, which in turn leads to increased erosion of the enamel. The high fructose corn syrup withdraws necessary minerals from the teeth, and also feeds the bacteria in the mouth responsible for creating plaque and eventually, tooth decay. Yikes!

According to the AAP, although sports drinks can sometimes be beneficial for athletes who take part in long period of intense exercise, water is usually the best way to go to ensure children are receiving adequate hydration, but not the excessive sugar and other ingredients that cause havoc for teeth!


Mouthguards

Mouthguards are used to protect your child’s teeth from harm, particularly during contact sports and other physical activity. In some collision sports, such as football, hockey, and boxing, mouthguards are often mandatory. In other sports, they may not be required, but they are strongly encouraged due to the potential for injury.

A properly-fitting mouth guard can prevent:

  • Chipped or broken teeth
  • Root damage
  • Tongue injury
  • Jaw fractures
  • Lip and cheek damage
  • Fractured crowns or bridgework
  • Concussions

The ADA recommends the use of mouth guards for: acrobatics, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot-putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weight lifting, and wrestling.

Mouthguards come in a variety of different types, including: custom-made mouthguards, boil and bite mouth guards, and stock mouth guards. Boil and bite, and stock mouthguards often don’t fit well and tend to be uncomfortable, making them less ideal. Custom-made mouthguards, on the other hand, provide maximum protection, comfort, and allow your child to easily communicate while wearing them. They are made using an imprint taken in the dentist office, and custom-fit to your child’s mouth.

Staying informed when it comes to sports and your child’s dental health can help prevent tooth decay and more serious injuries from happening. If you have any questions about the sports your child is playing or the health of their teeth, don’t hesitate to ask us at their next appointment.