Posted .

April is not just a time for blooming flowers and trees welcoming the warmth of spring; it is also National Facial Protection Month. This month serves as a crucial reminder for parents and guardians about the significance of safeguarding children’s smiles during sports and recreational activities. Engaging in sports is a fantastic way for children to develop physically and socially, yet it also poses risks to their dental health. Facial and dental injuries are among the most common types of injuries young athletes may face. Thankfully, such injuries can be significantly reduced or even prevented with the right protective gear.

Understanding the Risks

Sports and recreational activities contribute to approximately 36% of dental injuries incurred by children. These injuries can range from chipped or broken teeth to more severe concerns like jaw fractures and cuts to the soft tissues of the mouth. The impact of these injuries goes beyond just the immediate physical harm, affecting the child’s appearance, self-esteem and sometimes leading to long-term dental issues.

Types of Protective Gear

Protecting your child’s smile while they stay active in sports involves equipping them with the appropriate protective gear. The main types of protective equipment include:

  • Mouth Guards: These shields are essential for nearly all sports, especially contact sports including football, basketball, soccer and martial arts. Mouth guards cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth, injuries to the lips and face, and even help protect against jaw fractures.
  • Helmets: Helmets are vital for sports like baseball, football, hockey, cycling and skateboarding. They provide protection not just to the head but also to the face. Some helmets come with face shields, which are particularly beneficial in sports where flying objects are a concern.
  • Face Shields: Sports such as hockey and lacrosse often require face shields, which protect the face from direct hits. They can be used in conjunction with helmets for added protection.

Selecting the Right Protective Equipment

Choosing the right protective gear is paramount to ensure its effectiveness. Here are some tips for selecting the appropriate equipment:

  • Fit is Key: Ensure that any protective gear fits your child properly. Ill-fitting equipment can be uncomfortable and may not offer full protection. It is worth consulting with a professional to get the right fit.
  • Quality Matters: Opt for high-quality equipment that meets the safety standards set by sports organizations. This can mean the difference between a minor incident and a serious injury.
  • Mouth Guard Types: There are three main types of mouth guards: stock, boil-and-bite and custom-fitted. Custom-fitted mouth guards, made by a dentist, offer the best protection and comfort but are also more expensive. Boil-and-bite mouth guards are a more affordable alternative and offer a reasonable fit after being softened in hot water and then formed into the shape of your child’s mouth.

The Impact of Prevention

Preventative measures, such as wearing the right protective gear, can significantly reduce the risk of your child incurring dental injuries during sports activities. Educating children on the importance of facial protection and making it a non-negotiable part of their sports attire is crucial. Encourage your child to always wear their protective gear during both practice and games. As we observe National Facial Protection Month, let us commit to making facial protection a priority for our young athletes. Not only will this help keep their smiles safe, but it will also allow them to enjoy the sports they love with peace of mind.