April is National Facial Protection Month

April is National Facial Protection Month, and dentists are teaming up with athletes, parents and coaches to raise awareness about the importance of guarding against dental and facial injuries.

The ADA has joined the American Association of Orthodontists, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the Academy for Sports Dentistry as a National Facial Protection Month sponsor.

From team sports like football, baseball and hockey to recreational fun like biking and rollerblading, children and adults alike spend a lot of time and money gearing up for an active lifestyle, but one important piece of equipment—a mouthguard—is often overlooked.

Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than half of the seven million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year involve children as young as five years old. The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation reported that athletes who don’t wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth—yet, in a survey commissioned by the AAO in 2009, 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouthguard during organized sports.

The AAO survey also found that 84 percent of children do not wear mouthguards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads. At a time when a good football helmet or hockey stick may cost $200 each, mouthguards can be one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available.

“It’s important for dentists to encourage their patients to wear a mouthguard because all it takes is one elbow to the jaw or a stray puck to the mouth to destroy their smile,” said Dr. Ruchi Nijjar Sahota, an ADA spokesperson who practices general dentistry in Fremont, Calif. ”Dentists can advise patients about the variety of mouthguards available and help them select what’s best for them”.

Active patients should also wear helmets, protective eyewear and face shields when appropriate.

Patients can also find a variety of information and resources on facial protection and mouthguards at the ADA’s consumer website, MouthHealthy.org (http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/mouthguards.aspx).

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