There are numerous benefits to sports for children – physical fitness, positive self-esteem and teamwork to name just a few. The downside to sports at all levels, however, is threat of injury. And although they can be as mild as bumps, bruises and sprained ankles, they can also be as major as broken bones and dental emergencies. A mouth injury doesn't often receive much thought, but an alveolar fracture can be a true cause for concern.
The Alveolar Bone
The main function of the alveolar bone is to secure teeth to the maxilla and mandible (the upper and lower jaws), according to 1-800-Dentist®. The alveolar bone is more commonly known as the tooth socket, and aids with tooth stabilization by encasing your tooth roots. An alveolar fracture is a displacement of this bone, specifically the "alveolar process," and the injury is often characterized by a misalignment of several teeth as a result, notes Dental Trauma Guide.
How It Gets Hurt
Alveolar fractures are caused by some type of physical trauma to the mouth. Contact sports such as football, hockey, baseball and soccer all involve objects traveling at high speeds, and any of these can do damage to the socket if it makes an impact at just the right (or wrong) spot against the gumline. Football and hockey are especially physical in nature, adding to the chance of hazard through tackling and checking. Similar injuries often result in soccer from opponents colliding while trying to headbutt the ball in a given direction.
How to Protect It
Many sports involve some type of injury protection, such as padding, gloves and shin guards. Columbia University College of Dental Medicine recommends two ways to prevent oral injuries: helmets and mouth guards.
Helmets are commonplace in football and hockey, making it extremely difficult for any oral physical trauma to occur, but mouth guards are your best (and last) line of defense in protecting the teeth and tongue. Mouth guards are available at any sporting goods store, the most common of which are the standard mouth guard and the boil-and-bite. Because not all mouth guards cushion the most common sources of alveolar fractures, however, talk to your dentist about a custom-made mouth guard to ensure the right area is protected.
Mouth protection while playing sports is an important aspect of oral care, but instating a good routine at home is the key to maintaining that smile. This should include brushing twice a day with a toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Advanced Fresh + Whitening and flossing daily. Of course, don't forget to schedule regular checkups with your dentist to be sure nothing you can't see beyond the crown is broken.