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Say “dentistry” and most people think of their regular twice a year checkup, getting their teeth cleaned and hoping they don’t have a cavity. Others might recall past procedures, like a wisdom teeth removal or a root canal. Many may not realize dentistry has other branches. For example, two specialties are implant dentistry and pediatric dentistry. One of the lesser-known branches is sports dentistry.

Sports Need Dentists?

The FDI World Dental Federation defines this subdivision of dentistry as “the branch of sports medicine dealing with prevention and treatment of dental injuries and oral diseases associated with sports and exercise.” Injuries are, unfortunately, commonplace in sports. Sprained ankles, torn ligaments, concussions and broken bones are some of the most common and also the ones that first come to mind of athletes and fans. But an injury that affects an athlete’s oral health can be just as serious.

Dental Injuries

Anywhere from 13 to 39 percent of dental injuries result from playing sports. Approximately 80 percent of all dental injuries affect one, if not more, of the front teeth. Tongue and cheek injuries are common too. Small chips and cracks in teeth can be repaired. Even a knocked out tooth can be salvaged by seeking immediate dental assistance. Two of the best means of protection against oral injuries are through the use of helmets and mouth guards.

Sports Mouth Guards

One way to keep those pearly whites intact is by wearing a mouth guard. A typical mouth guard covers the top teeth. They’re designed to guard against cut lips, broken teeth and other types of damage to the mouth. Mouth guards are a good idea if your sport of choice is football, hockey, skateboarding, soccer, basketball or any type of activity where the mouth is susceptible to injury. Replace your mouth guard after a season of use.

There are three types of mouth guards:

  • Stock mouth guards. This variety is ready to wear right out of the package. Though it’s inexpensive, it doesn’t fit very well and may not be comfortable.
  • Boil and bite mouth guards. This type is exactly as it sounds. Boil a preformed piece of plastic and then bite into it for a customized fit. Boil and bite mouth guards can be found at most sporting goods stores.
  • Custom-made mouth guards. A sports dentist makes this type right in the office or in a dental lab. It’s specifically designed for your mouth by using an impression of your teeth. From there, the mouth guard is crafted to fit over the impression. This type of mouth guard is the most expensive given the customization and effort involved to fabricate it. Custom-made mouth guards provide the best fit and protection.

National Facial Protection Month

As the new season of contact sports begins, let this spring be inspiration to don mouth guards. April has been declared as National Facial Protection Month. Protecting your teeth when playing sports is paramount but injuries are bound to happen, hence, the need for sports dentistry. A mouth guard isn’t the only way to ensure proper mouth health. That starts at home with good oral care habits. Brush twice a day and floss once daily. Add a toothpaste like Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean Toothpaste to your routine. It not only fights plaque and tartar, but also helps maintain a dentist-clean feeling. And remember to schedule those regular dental cleanings to keep your gums and teeth healthy and clean.