Look, Ma, No Teeth
Aug. 6, 2001 -- Whether falling flat on their face when first learning to walk or flying over a bicycle's handlebars during their preteen years, kids have a way of ensuring their parents will end up putting money where their mouth is -- or more accurately, where their teeth used to be.
By the age of 16, one-quarter of all children have had some type of dental trauma, says Martin Davis, DDS, associate dean of student affairs and the chair of pediatric dentistry at Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery in New York City and president of the American Society of Dentists for Children.
Among children aged 1 to 3, such injuries often occur when the child is learning how to crawl, walk, and run, he tells WebMD. Among school-age children, most injuries are sports related -- from bike riding to organized sports such as Little League.
But tooth-proofing homes and wearing mouthguards during play can save kids lots of pain and parents lots of anxiety, Davis said at the recent annual meeting of the Academy of General Dentistry.
To tooth-proof the home, Davis says, "Put away furniture with sharp corners and edges. And if you are going to let your child use a walker, make sure that sturdy gates are fastened at the top of stairs."
Tooth CPR? You bet, Davis says.
If an accident should happen -- and they do even in the most protected environments -- and a permanent tooth is knocked out, the first thing to do is put it back in the socket and hold it in place with a tissue or handkerchief as you go to the dentist, he says.
"Or transport it in milk, which has the same concentration as blood, is cold and readily available, and slows down the cells from dying," he says.
Mouthguards should be required in many more recreational and competitive sports than they currently are, he says.
"The only sports that mouthguards are really required in are football and boxing," he says. "These guards don't just protect teeth -- they absorb shock in the chin and protect the brain. Certainly athletes should wear them when playing Little League baseball and high school basketball."
Mouthguards can be bought off the shelf in sports stores, but these are not custom-made and therefore are not very comfortable. As a result, compliance is not that great, he says.
However, "any general dentist can make one from a model of your child's teeth and even personalize the guard with a favorite color or stars," he says.
Such custom-fitting guards cost about $30 to $60 depending on where you live, he says.
Howard Glazer, DDS, past president of the American Academy of General Dentistry and a general dentist in Fort Lee, N.J., and New York City, agrees with Davis on the importance of mouthguards.
"Most organizations advocate the use of mouthguards -- especially in contact sports," he tells WebMD. But they are also important in noncontact sports that people may not think have a potential for injury such as scooters and in-line skating, he says.