Although contact sports are a pastime for people of all ages, the rough-and-tumble side of them often results in a blow to the mouth and a trip to the dentist. Chipped, cracked and broken teeth are common occurrences, but one sports-related injury that is not so easily visible is a tooth root fracture. And as advanced and difficult to treat as these injuries are, you can protect yourself from this type of damage.
Any time your mouth takes an impact, your dentist will want to examine it immediately for obvious breaks and chips, as well as teeth that may have loosened. X-rays are necessary in these cases to determine if any damage has occurred to the roots, such as a horizontal or vertical root fracture, or injury to the surrounding bone.
Vertical Root Fracture
If your tooth has cracked, early root canal treatment (followed by a crown) can keep the crack from spreading vertically into the root. The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) explains that a cracked tooth with a vertical root fracture extending below the gumline usually can't be saved. If the tooth has split into separable segments, however, an endodontic procedure may be able to save a portion of the tooth. In cases where the vertical root fracture begins near the root tip and extends toward the chewing surface, the tooth can also be preserved by removing the fractured root.
Horizontal Root Fracture
When trauma to the tooth results in a horizontal root fracture, suggests the AAE, the long-term health of the tooth depends on the location of the fracture. Those located closer to the gumline have fewer successful outcomes than those located near the root tip. Aside from root canal treatment, the tooth may need to be stabilized with a splint as well.
Preventing Injury with Mouth Guards
Wearing a mouth guard over your teeth during certain athletic events is the best way to protect them from a physical hazard. By softening common blows to your mouth, this lessens the chance of fractures to your teeth and roots, as well as similar injuries to your face, tongue, lips and jaw. The American Dental Association (ADA) encourages the use of mouth guards because studies show that athletes who don't wear them are 60 times more likely to experience a dental accident. But mouth guards aren't just for contact sports such as boxing, hockey and football; they also protect your teeth when skating or participating in activities like gymnastics.
Choosing a Mouth Guard for You
The mouth guard that fits best will have been molded by your dentist to protect your teeth specifically. Still many sporting-goods stores carry boil-and-bite mouth guards that adapt to the shape of your teeth after softening them in hot water. Ready-to-wear versions are the least expensive of the three, but are often ill-fitting and difficult to wear. Though usually worn on just the top teeth, your dentist may also suggest wearing a mouth guard on the lower teeth given the presence of orthodontic braces.
Caring for Your Teeth and Mouth Guard
As you know, looking after your teeth requires brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste such as Colgate® Triple Action, and flossing regularly. While you do this, here's how you can keep your mouth guard in the best shape:
- Brush your mouth guard with a toothbrush and toothpaste before and after use.
- Rinse it with water each time you take it out.
- Use a sturdy container with vents to keep it clean when storing and transporting it.
- Keep your mouth guard out of direct sunlight, avoid leaving it in hot water and be sure to keep it out of dogs' reach; they love to chew on them.
- Replace your mouth guard when it shows visible signs of wear.
Your teeth are a valuable asset, necessary for eating, speaking and beautiful smiles. Naturally, you'll want to safeguard them from a tooth root fracture and all other potential injuries. So, don't take chances before engaging in any sports activities, and ask your dentist which type of mouth guard will give you the best protection.