In any sport, injuries to the teeth and mouth can occur. A fall or a blow by an object, such as a bat, body part, ball, etc. can lead to injuries. Proper and prompt management is necessary to ensure the best possible survival rate of the involved teeth.
The outer-most layer is called the enamel and is comprised of mineral salts, which make this protective cover the hardest substance in the body. There are two different sections that comprise a tooth. The crown extends above the gum line and is the area in which chewing occurs. The root affixes with the bone to hold the tooth in place and also allows nerves and blood vessels to pass.
There are two different classifications of dental injuries. Direct dental injuries occur when the mouth or head is struck by an object such as a bat or a forearm. Indirect injuries occur when an open mouth is closed abruptly, forcing the lower jaw’s teeth to be crushed into the upper teeth. Teeth that have had a large cavity or a previous root canal are usually affected by indirect injuries.
There are different types of injuries that may result. Proper management of these injuries is vital to saving the tooth.
Types of Injuries
- An avulsed tooth is defined as when the tooth is completely knocked out of its socket. Once the tooth is knocked out of the mouth, never pick it up by the roots. It should only be picked up by the crown. The tooth should immediately be placed in a plastic container filled with whole milk, saliva or saline solution. If a container is not readily available and the athlete is conscious, coherent, can follow directions and is mature enough, the tooth can be placed under the athlete’s tongue. A tooth that has been out for over two hours has a poor chance of survival. The athlete with an avulsed tooth needs to be referred to a dentist as quickly as possible.
- A luxated tooth has been loosened but not completely knocked out. The tooth can be moved forward, backward and sideways. Treatment should consist of pushing the tooth back into its original position. The athlete should then be transported to the nearest dentist for final care.
- Fractured teeth are common as well. There are four different classifications of fractures and are differentiated by the number of layers that are involved. Treatment of fractures is the same as that of an avulsed tooth.
Prevention of dental injuries starts with ensuring that protective equipment is in proper working condition. In certain contact sports, mouth guards