As the weather warms up and spring gets underway, athletic people everywhere are itching to end the winter hiatus, get back outside, and play some sports. But while physical activity (and some friendly competition!) can be good for you, it’s important to make sure that your athletics aren’t putting your teeth at risk.
Protect Teeth With Helmets and Mouthguards
The most obvious way you can damage your teeth while playing sports is by headlong collision. Whether that means crashing on your bike or taking a hockey puck to the mouth, there are plenty of ways that blunt force trauma can damage or even knock out a tooth during a game.
While a regular bike helmet won’t do much for your teeth, many sports can be made safer with a helmet that covers more ground. For instance, hockey goalies and baseball catchers should wear a face cage to protect the teeth from stray pucks and baseballs. Football helmets often have added protection around the face, and the full-face helmets that some people wear while dirt biking or doing motorcross can prevent a catastrophic dental injury in case of an accident.
For more precise mouth protection, a mouth guard is indispensable. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) reports that athletes are 60 times more likely to experience tooth injury without a mouthguard. The ADA recommends wearing a mouthguard for a number of different sports, including baseball, hockey, football, rugby, and even skateboarding. And don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all mouthguard from the sports store — your dentist can create a custom mouthguard that will protect your teeth better than any off-the-shelf product could.
Watch Out For Sports Drinks
Surprisingly, one of the most dangerous things from your teeth isn’t even the sports themselves — it’s the way you hydrate when playing them. Instead of just drinking water while playing sports, many athletes turn to sports drinks to both hydrate and replenish electrolytes. Unfortunately, those drinks aren’t just packed with electrolytes… they’re also packed with sugar. Plus, they’re highly acidic, which can do some serious damage to your enamel.
Instead of hydrating with sports drinks, it’s better for your teeth to simply hydrate with water. To fulfill that need for electrolytes, it’s better to just supplement your water with some snacks that will do the same job. Bananas, nuts, and salty snacks can help you get the electrolytes you need to keep playing hard.
It’s important to understand that virtually anything in a sport has risk for dental injury. For example, it’s not uncommon for basketball players to snag teeth on the net while dunking, and people who spend a lot of time in chlorinated pools can start to get tooth discoloration known as swimmer’s calculus.
The best way to make sure your athletic fun isn’t damaging your oral health is to discuss with your dentist. If there are certain sports you like to play, your dentist can help you protect your teeth properly while playing.