Playing It Safe

By Patti Hermes

mouth guardSummer is here! School is letting out and kids are getting outside to play! And parents are anxiously monitoring all the varied activities that they can squeeze into a summer vacation. While at the same time, we like to loosen those apron strings just a little bit more each summer, give our kids a little more breathing room, a little more responsibility for themselves as they grow older. It’s harder to do when we read about the annual spike in emergency room visits by children, injured while playing.

While at the same time, we like to loosen those apron strings just a little bit more each summer, give our kids a little more breathing room, a little more responsibility for themselves as they grow older. It’s harder to do when we read about the annual spike in emergency room visits by children, injured while playing.

Bike helmets are pretty standard these days, with some states mandating them for children. You don’t see Little Leaguers running the bases without a proper batting helmet anymore. Soccer players have their shin guards, and even young skateboarders are donning knee pads when they’re learning new tricks at the skate park. But they’re all missing something.

The American Association of Orthodontists is spreading the word that many facial sports injuries can be prevented simply by wearing mouth guards. In any kind of contact sport, a simple “elbow into the lower jaw can cause the jaw to snap into the upper teeth with such tremendous force that the entire jaw, as well as the teeth, suffer serious injury,” according to Dr. Robert Bray, President of the American Association of Orthodontists. A mouth guard “cushions the teeth” from that impact, protecting the wearer from more serious injury.

So why aren’t more young athletes wearing mouth guards?

The AAO recently commissioned a survey of parents, in February 2009, to find out. While 67% of those surveyed said their child does not wear a mouth guard while participating in organized sports, 27% reported an injury requiring emergency room treatment. Still, 84% of those not using mouth guards said it’s because the league or coach does not require it. Additionally, many parents are simply unaware of the need for mouth and facial protection during contact sports and certain other types of recreation that children are practicing. Football, hockey and, to a lesser degree, wrestling are the sports most likely to require mouth guards. But if you’ve been paying attention to the professional leagues, you would have seen NBA players spitting out mouth guards as they head to the bench for a rest during the recent playoff series. Not a pretty picture, but still good role models for our kids.

Additionally, many parents are simply unaware of the need for mouth and facial protection during contact sports and certain other types of recreation that children are practicing. Football, hockey and, to a lesser degree, wrestling are the sports most likely to require mouth guards. But if you’ve been paying attention to the professional leagues, you would have seen NBA players spitting out mouth guards as they head to the bench for a rest during the recent playoff series. Not a pretty picture, but still good role models for our kids.

Kim Chicoine of Hamden, CT is a mother to three athletes, spends most of the year shuttling the crew between hockey rinks. In the off-season, she can be found on the sidelines cheering on her youngest in lacrosse, mouth guard in place, firmly attached to his helmet. Her teenage son, the one with the braces, goes without mouth guard on the baseball diamond. “I have seen kids wear them for soccer, mostly due to braces,” she added.

Baseball and Softball

Baseball and softball players, “at least all the infielders,” and soccer players of all ages should use mouth guards, according to Dr. Bray, and he stressed that use during practices is just as important as games. Even cheerleaders are susceptible to nasty injuries and should take care to guard those pearly whites. Dr. Bray, who practices in the Atlantic City area, recently took part in a program to provide mouth guards to rugby players, who typically take pride in minimal protection in a very heavy contact sport. But it’s not just team sports that are injury-prone: the ever-popular bicycle is a common culprit in many teeth and jaw injuries, or rather, the pavement we land on in an accident.

Dr. Bray acknowledged that while braces can help to “keep the teeth in the mouth” in some cases (the wires connect each tooth, causing them to act as a unit), a mouth guard is still necessary to protect the jaws, and also to protect against mouth lacerations. In the case of braces, an orthodontist may recommend a custom-fit mouth guard, but the inexpensive over-the-counter model at your local drug store will provide adequate protection in most other cases. They can be made to fit even very young athletes, and any protection is better than no protection at all.

Small Price to Pay

Whether you spend $5 or $100 or more, it’s still a small price to pay to protect a healthy, beautiful smile. So parents and coaches should remind children to always wear their mouth guards when engaging in any activities in which their mouths could possibly endure a hard hit, whether it be your opponent’s elbow, a ground ball or even the sidewalk in front of your house.

Greta Jenkins

Greta Jenkins

Greta Jenkins is a writer mom, nurse and a community volunteer. She is the author of various articles about home and family life and has been featured in parenting magazines and newspapers.
Greta Jenkins
https://imgsub.familiesonlinemagazine.com/uploads/2017/08/mouth-guard.jpghttps://imgsub.familiesonlinemagazine.com/uploads/2017/08/mouth-guard-150x150.jpgGreta JenkinsChild SafetyFamily Safety TipsPlaying It Safe By Patti HermesSummer is here! School is letting out and kids are getting outside to play! And parents are anxiously monitoring all the varied activities that they can squeeze into a summer vacation. While at the same time, we like to loosen those apron strings just a...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids