Food & Recipes


Cool Stuff

Home » how-to, Seasonal/Holidays

Play Safe This Fall Sports Season: Protect Your Child’s Teeth

Submitted by on August 28, 2013 – 9:07 pmNo Comment

Tips to Protect Your Child’s Teeth during Sports Activities

by Dr. Monica Anderson

Fall sports season is here and student athletes are heading to the fields to compete in organized sports such as football, soccer or field hockey. Keeping the season fun means playing safe, and that includes protecting your child’s teeth. More than five million teeth are knocked out each year through sports injury, accident or play. One in four teens is seen annually in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital for a sports-related injury.

So what can you do to keep your child smiling through the whole season? Below are some actions you can to take to help protect your student athlete’s oral health:

Use a mouth guard for contact sports

Just as helmets, shoulder pads, and kneepads are worn to protect against sports-related injuries, mouth guards are an equally important piece of protective gear.

Mouth guards prevent injury to teeth by cushioning a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. They typically cover the upper teeth and protect the soft tissues of the tongue, lips and cheek lining.

A mouth guard is also important for students who wear braces since a blow to the face could damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. A mouth guard provides a barrier between the braces and the cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries.  If your child has a retainer or other removable appliance, they should not wear it during any contact sports.

In many states, mouth guards are required for some scholastic sports — football, field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, wrestling and basketball.  Dentists recommend that participants wear mouth guards in all contact sports, whether it’s for a practice or a championship game.

Be sure the mouth guard is comfortable and fits properly. Talk to your child’s dentist about the kinds of mouth guards that are available and what will work best for your child. Your dentist can also custom fit your athlete to ensure proper fit and protection.

With the ability to protect the head and teeth, mouth guards are one of the most effective pieces of protective equipment in sports.

Limit your athlete’s intake of sports drinks

The American College of Sports Medicine suggests athletes replace fluids every 15 minutes while exercising to avoid dehydration.  Young athletes participating in sports may rely on sports or energy drinks to recharge or rehydrate after vigorous exercising. However, the combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives in these drinks combine to erode the tooth’s surface. They weaken the enamel that protects teeth from bacteria that can lead to hypersensitivity, staining, and tooth decay. As a dentist, I cannot recommend sports or energy drinks.  With the exception of the highest performing athletes, who need to replenish minerals from intensive workouts, water is always the best option for staying hydrated on and off the field.

Recognizing that kids will find a way to drink these beverages, below are a few changes your child can make to avoid overconsumption:

  • Moderate consumption. If your child insists on drinking a sports drink, it is better to drink an 8oz bottle in one sitting than to slowly sip it over the course of a game. That gives the sugars and acids less time in your child’s mouth to erode enamel.  Rinsing the mouth with water after drinking a sport drink can clear away remaining acids and sugars.
  • Encourage children to consume as much water as they do sports drinks. If your children find water boring, consider adding slices of oranges, lemons, or strawberries to make it more appealing. Diluting sports drinks with water lowers the concentration of acidity and sugar and helps lessen damage to the teeth.
  •  Discourage swishing sports drinks around the mouth. This bad habit increases the risk of erosion.

Make regular dental care a part of your child’s routine

Most children should see their dentist for a regular cleaning and check-up every six months. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. Yet, it’s almost completely preventable with proper care. Your dentist can identify early signs of erosion, pinpoint the causes, and advise you on how to prevent further damage or more serious problems from occurring.

Every year across the United States, children miss 51 million school hours due to dental disease. By following the tips above, you can reduce that number by starting out the school year with good oral health habits and ensuring that your child receives regular dental care.


Dr. Monica Anderson is Texas Dental Director at DentaQuest, the second largest dental benefits administrator in the United States. Driven by its mission to improve the oral health of all, DentaQuest is committed to delivering better outcomes at a lower cost to more than 19 million members across the United States.


Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.