When I was a junior in high school, I played shortstop on my high school’s baseball team. I’ve always loved baseball, and my mom loved it even more, considering it was the only non-contact sport that I participated in, making it the safest in her eyes. Unfortunately for me, it was also the sport that I sustained one of the most painful injuries I’ve ever experienced. I don’t remember the specifics, as I blacked out for a moment upon impact, but I do know that I took a fast ball to the mouth from one of the area’s best pitchers while up at bat. The contact caused my upper left cuspid to cut through my lip, leaving me with only two stitches. Not so bad, right? Well, I ended up losing that tooth as well, requiring a replacement tooth ASAP. I couldn’t attend prom with a missing tooth! How embarrassing. Never mind the broken nose and large bruise that were obvious in all of the pictures taken on the occasion. Those were cool though; battle wounds. Clearly, nothing like a missing tooth, or so I explained to my mom.
Fast-forward several (and I mean, several) years, and fortunately for young athletes everywhere, awareness about the importance of protecting yourself from dental and facial injuries is spreading. In fact, April is National Facial Protection Month, sponsored by the American Dental Association, the American Association of Orthodontists, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and several other reputable organizations. The message is simple: it’s time for parents, athletes, coaches, and dentists to team up and talk about the importance of wearing protective gear, such as mouth-guards, during all physical activity. According to a recent ADA News publication, statistics show that more than half of the 7 million recreational injuries reported each year involve kids. The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation also reported that athletes who do not wear mouth-guards while playing organized sports are 60% more likely to sustain an injury that damages teeth; however a whopping 67% of parents admitted that their children don’t utilize this important protective gear. While most sports require other protective materials (i.e. helmets, shoulder pads, etc), mouth-guards are typically not required, resulting in a staggering number of facial and dental injuries. National Facial Protection Month is a call for all dentists to advise their active patients to protect themselves against these common injuries. The ADA’s website, MouthHealthy.org, is a great resource to point patients and parents to for additional information on the topic. While I most definitely would have still received the broken nose and black and blue marks from my injury, if I were wearing a mouth-guard, I wouldn’t have lost that tooth, which clearly was one of the most devastating events of my high school career.