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4 Common Sports-Related Dental Injuries



Injuries are a part of sports, and are even in some cases, considered a rite of passage with athletes proudly bearing their scars. But any trauma to the face or mouth, resulting in orofacial injuries (in and around the mouth), can have serious adverse functional, psychological, and aesthetic effects on the victim.

Dental-Related Injuries In Sports

Injuries to the mouth and teeth are very common in sports, with about 80 per cent of them affecting the front teeth and soft tissues – lips, tongue, and inner cheeks. Some of the most common dental injuries include:

  1. Cracked Teeth

    A fractured or cracked tooth is one of the most common injuries when the athlete sustains a sudden blow to the face. The severity of the crack varies widely depending on different factors, with players who don’t wear mouthguards being 60 times more likely to have serious damage resulting in other long-term problems.

    A cracked tooth may not be visible to the naked eye unless you lose a section of the tooth enamel. You may also not experience any pain, except when biting down or consuming hot or cold foods. So, the problem would only be identified during your next dental checkup.

    Depending on the severity of damage, the tooth may have to be extracted and replaced with a dental bridge or implant. Trauma to an injured tooth that can be saved may require root canal treatment.

    Root fractures can also be treated depending on the severity of the injury.

  2. Tooth Intrusion

    An intrusion occurs when the concerned tooth is driven into its socket, usually due to some form of axial impact. This is a very serious form of displacement injury that usually results in the damage or death of nerves in 96 per cent of the cases involving fully formed roots. If the tooth has immature root development, the intrusion will be followed by spontaneous re-eruption.

    Treatment should be administered quickly because the pulp has become necrotic, and usually requires surgery, splinting, repositioning, or orthodontic treatment.

  3. Tooth Extrusion

    This is the opposite of tooth intrusion, where the trauma causes the tooth to partially erupt from its socket, towards the palate. Treatment is administered by repositioning the tooth gently and using a non-rigid splint.

    It is also important to monitor the development of the pulp in the event that endodontic treatment is needed.

  4. Avulsion Or Knocked-Out Teeth

    This is a common sports injury with about 90 per cent chance of the avulsed tooth being saved by returning it to the socket. However, this option requires you to seek treatment within one hour of the injury.

    If the periodontal fibres attached to the surface of the roots are still in good condition, you can recover full function. There is a 90 per cent chance of success if the tooth is replaced in its socket within 20 minutes of the incident, with the success rate decreasing by 10 per cent for each additional five minutes wasted.

    Unless the tooth falls out completely, keep it in your mouth, preferably in its socket, until you see the dentist. If it falls to the ground, pick it up from the crown and rinse with cold water for 10 seconds.

Final Note

Sports-related dental injuries can be successfully prevented, or the severity of the damage reduced by wearing appropriate sports gear. But when injury occurs, it should be treated promptly to reduce the risk of long-term dental problems.

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Dr. Tali Waksman
A graduate from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Dr. Tali Waksman went on to work as the only dentist on a Native reserve, serving 2000 people after completing a residency at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. With a warm and friendly personality and close attention to detail, she treats every patient like family.