When playing sports or exercising, most of us are focussed on what we’re doing (or trying to do), making sure we have proper form, are using the equipment correctly, and trying to move quickly and accurately. Our teeth are not often at the forefront of our minds when we’re trying to run, swim, or score a point. Parents are concerned about their kids’ teeth while playing sports, but adults frequently neglect to protect their teeth during the same activities. Many variables present dangers for your teeth—bats, rackets, elbows, hard floors, falling, parked cars, tree branches, balls, bicycle accidents, falling while rock climbing, surfboards, etc. They key to protecting your teeth during exercise is preparation by using a sports mouth guard and other protective tools.
Injuries to your teeth during sports and exercise are unpredictable. And unfortunately, most adults do not consider how to protect their teeth until something happens to them. Protecting your teeth while playing sports is not just for people who consider themselves “clumsy” either. No one can predict when they might have an exercise-related tooth injury, so these steps are for everyone. You never know when a sports-related mouth injury might warrant a call to the emergency dentist.
Teeth are amazingly fragile and can get knocked out by the most seemingly innocuous incidents. The risk for tooth damage is heightened during exercise and sports because of the intensity with which you are moving and playing. With team sports, there is the added risk from other players bumping into you, accidentally elbowing you in the mouth, etc.
Ways to Protect Your Teeth While Exercising or Playing Sports
- Mouth Guards – Exercise and sports will many times induce us to clench our teeth—often unknowingly. Using a mouth guard not only acts as a barrier to damage from outside forces, but it also prevents you from clenching your teeth and causing damage from within. Clenching your teeth causes the muscles in the jaw and face to become fatigued along with the muscles in the rest of your body, and a mouth guard saves these muscles from tiring too quickly. There are several different options for protective mouth guards: preformed, boil-and-bite, and custom created/fitted. The best fit and protection is offered by guards that are custom created, like the mouth guards we can make in our dentist office (ask us about this).
- Helmets – For cyclists and those playing baseball, hockey, soccer, football, and other contact sports, wearing a helmet is crucial. Be sure to choose the right helmet for the right sport, as they are specifically designed to protect against the injuries that are particular to that sport. Wearing the right helmet can protect your mouth from injury, but can also protect your entire head from traumatic injuries.
- Water – While sports drinks have been the go-to for many sports participants, there are far better choices for hydration, especially as it corresponds to the health of your teeth. There are much more sugary drinks, but sports drinks are still highly corrosive on the enamel of your teeth. Instead of sports drinks, try sticking with water (your body needs it anyway) or try coconut water. Coconut water is extremely low in sugar but remains sweet and packed with natural electrolytes, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and other things that are great for replenishing your body during high exertion.
Just remember—having a tooth knocked out is forever. You can not get it back, and the process involved in having an artificial tooth put in is not easy and can be fairly expensive. Keeping your normal teeth is the ideal. So protecting them is key.
It is crucial that parents guard their children mouths from mouth injuries during sports, but it is equally important for adults to take the necessary precautions when exercising. Use the tools at your disposal, and make the best hydration choices—avoiding sports drinks—your teeth will thank you. Make this part of the conversation during your next dental office visit. We can provide suggestions for the best mouth guards (or book an appointment so we can make you one!) and help you form a strategy to protect your teeth during exercise.