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Don’t get sidelined with a broken tooth

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- It has been estimated that nearly five million teeth are "knocked out" each year resulting in roughly $500 million annually to replace or repair them.

Sports-related injuries account for an estimated 15 to 40 percent of dental trauma, and attribute three times as many injuries as traffic accidents or violence. This is an enormous number, as many people do not carry dental insurance. What may be more astonishing is that a great deal of these injuries can be prevented.

Children and young adults between the ages of 10-19 years old comprise the highest number of dental injuries. Basketball, skiing/snowboarding, bicycling, skateboarding, and soccer cause far more injuries than high-contact sports such as football, hockey or boxing. Participants in activities such as lacrosse, gymnastics, wrestling, in-line skating and martial arts are also at risk for dental trauma.

A properly constructed mouthguard can greatly decrease the chances of sports' related dental injuries by providing a layer of cushioning not only for the teeth, but also the lips, gums, surrounding bones and jaw.

Many people's perceived notion of a mouthguard is the type you buy at a sporting goods store. This type is heated in boiling water, removed and bitten into. These products come in a variety of sizes, colors, designs and costs. The manufacturers use catchy packaging and make convincing claims about their products' protective qualities. Many of these claims are without warrant. These mouthguards do not protect you or your children as much as the packages state. They do not have a tight fit, they are more easily distorted or damaged, and they become even less effective over time. Although "boil and bite" mouthguards are better than nothing, there is much better protection available.

A dentist can make a mouthguard to custom fit your mouth. A custom-fit mouthguard provides better retention, improved comfort, more durability and improved speech.

In addition, a custom-fit mouthguard will offer better protection to the teeth, lips, gums and bone. New research also shows that custom fit mouthguards may be beneficial in preventing head injuries such as concussions.

Children and adults participating in sports with an increased risk of hard contact with either someone or something should wear a mouthguard. The price of a custom-fit mouthguard is slightly more than the "high-end" store mouthguard, but the increased protection could save money compared to the cost of fixing or replacing a tooth.

With the winter months ahead, indoor sports such as basketball, racquetball, and soccer will be in full swing. I've seen entirely too many emergencies due to an elbow or racquet to the mouth resulting in multiple appointments to fix a trauma that could have been prevented simply by wearing a mouthguard. Tricare dental covers 50 percent of the bill for dependents' dental covers for active duty Airmen, the Eielson dental clinic can protect those "pearly whites" for free.

If you are an active-duty member interested in having a sports mouth guard fabricated for yourself, please stop by or call 377-1846 for an appointment.