Five Tips for Protecting Braces While Playing Sports

Many parents worry about their child playing sports while wearing braces. If they get a mouth injury on the field or on the court, the concern is that the braces could make the injury worse and/or your child’ progress with the braces could be affected. Or maybe you are the one playing sports with braces.

For this reason, orthodontists recommend that your child wear a mouthguard to protect their teeth and braces while practicing or playing a game.

Here are 5 tips for protecting braces while playing sports:

1. Wear a Mouth Guard

Most mouth guards are deliberately created to fit easily over braces or other orthodontic equipment. Some of the type of dental traumas a mouth guard can protect your child’s smile from include:

  • A Knocked-out tooth. If it is a baby tooth, call your dentist and make an appointment for an evaluation. Typically, dentists don’t recommend you trying to put the baby tooth back in.

    Adult avulsed teeth that are quickly replaced ( 30 minutes) have a good prognosis and are often retained, although most ultimately require a root canal. The longer the tooth has been out of the socket, the worse the prognosis, so replacement by emergency or primary care practitioners is often warranted. However, after about 2 hours, replacement is usually not done by non-specialists unless in consultation with a dentist, and is usually not considered worth trying after about 3 hours. Do not wash or scrub the avulsed tooth and bring it in a container of milk. Health professionals should keep a supply of a buffered liquid such as Hanks' Balanced Salt Solution (HBSS) as a temporary storage/transport medium. Do not scrub an avulsed tooth clean because this may remove viable periodontal ligament fibers. Just gently rinse it. I recommend to keep a bottle of Hank's Balanced Salt Solution handy at home and/or bring a small bottle with you to your kid's sporting events.

  • A tooth fracture. If a tooth is broken, then try to find the piece that was broken off and bring it to the dentist as soon as possible. Small chips are not as big of an emergency and can be taken care of within a few days of the accident or injury. Don’t wait too long though.

  • Tooth pushed into the gums. Sometimes the force of a hit will cause a tooth to be pushed further into the gums. This is called a tooth intrusion. This is very important to get taken care of right away because a baby tooth pushed back into the gums can affect the adult tooth waiting to erupt.

  • Damage to the braces themselves. If the wires or brackets of the brackets of the braces, are broken or bent, this itself can cause pain and discomfort and could affect how the teeth are moving if the problem isn’t fixed right away.

2. Pick the Right Type of Mouth Guard

  • There are typically three different types of mouth guards. You can get one custom-fitted to your child’s mouth or your mouth by the dentist which is more expensive, but at least you know it fits perfectly. The other options are to get a boil and bite version that you can buy at a sporting goods or drug store. You will need to boil them in hot water and then have your child bite down so it will shape itself to fit her mouth. Do not use boiled mouth guards when you have braces. Boil and molded mouth guards will get trapped by the braces and won't come out. Buy braces compatible mouth guards, which is just a protective shell you bite over. The least expensive are the type that are pre-molded. While cheaper, these might not fit right and so does not offer the best protection.

3. Make Wearing a Mouth Guard Fun

  • So, you know the important of getting your child a mouth guard, but now how do you get her to wear it? Getting your child to wear a mouth guard can sometime be difficult especially in the beginning when they are getting used to how it feels in their mouth. What helps is that most mouth guards can be made in the colors of your child’s team and sometimes even their logo can be put on it. Some companies even sell flavored mouth guards. Common flavors include bubblegum and strawberry.

4. Know How to Take Care of Mouth Guard Properly

  • Taking care of a mouth guard is easy. It just needs to be rinsed with soap and warm water after each use. Worried about it getting lost when you or your child takes it out at a game or practice? Look for the ones that come with a strap that allows it to be attached to a helmet or go for one that comes with a carrying case that can easily be stored in a gym bag.

5. Know When to Go to the Emergency Room

  • If your or your child gets hurt in the mouth while wearing braces, how do you know if you need to go right to the emergency or go to the orthodontist?

    First thing you should always do is examine the injury carefully. Often there is a lot of blood which makes it hard to see the source of the injury right away. Clean it up as best as you can and determine as quickly as possible what route of action you need to take.

    Right after the injury, stop the bleeding and ice the injured area. If the bleeding won’t stop, you have a gaping wound or are in an inordinate amount of pain, go right to the emergency room.

    If you are just uncomfortable and the bleeding as slowed down, make an appointment with your dentist and orthodontist as soon as possible. Your dentist can take an x-ray to see if any of your teeth have been damaged. If you have lost a tooth, your dentist will need to see if it can be replanted or if you need a dental implant. Then make an appointment with the orthodontist to have any damaged brackets or wires. There are a lot of different parts to your braces – the plastic-colored ties, brackets, archwire, bands and elastic hooks – so any direction you can give your orthodontist on what got damaged will help them know how quickly they need to get you in the office.

    If you have any loose bands or brackets or broken wires that are poking your cheeks, but you are not in severe pain, you can wait until normal business hours to call the orthodontist to schedule a time to come in to get the problem fixed. If, however you are in severe pain call your orthodontist’s emergency line to get seen immediately.

    While you are waiting to be seen, try to use wax to protect your mouth from any chafing or irritation. And see if you can use nail clippers to cut the wire if a broken piece keeps poking into your cheeks or gums.

    Playing sports while wearing braces should not be a problem if you take these precautions.

    By Dr Charles Gemmi