Teen Trends and Teeth: An In-Depth Look at Adolescent Oral Health Risks (Part Two)

A girl playing hockey. Hockey is one of the sports with higher risk of dental injuries.Welcome back to the second installment of our educational series on adolescent oral health. In our previous discussion, we delved into the world of oral piercings and smoking, uncovering the hidden dangers that these popular trends pose to dental health. As we continue our journey, we turn our focus to another area of concern that often goes unmitigated: sporting dental injuries.

Sports play an integral role in the lives of many adolescents. Whether it’s the thrill of scoring a goal, the camaraderie of being part of a team, or simply the joy of physical activity, sports offer numerous benefits. However, with these benefits come certain risks, especially when it comes to our teeth and gums.

From minor tooth fractures to more severe dislocations, the dental implications of sports-related injuries can be both immediate and long-lasting.

As we navigate this topic, we’ll shed light on the most common dental injuries in sports, the activities that pose the highest risk, and the preventive measures that can be taken to safeguard our young athletes’ smiles.

Let’s dive in and equip ourselves with the knowledge to play safe and stay protected.

The Prevalence of Dental Injuries in Sports

Perhaps the best place to start is by developing an understanding of just how prevalent dental trauma is in the world of adolescent sport. Unfortunately, the research shows dental injuries in sport are pretty common.

A 10-year study of over 3,000 dental trauma cases in children found that 31.8% of all injuries occurred during sporting activities, with further research indicating that males are statistically more likely to sustain dental injuries than females.

In fact studies have found that dental injuries represent a significant proportion of all sporting injuries. Approximately 10-20% of all injuries are craniofacial, with a substantial number of those dental injuries.

Which Sports Present the Highest Risk of Dental Trauma?

Engaging in sports is a great way for adolescents to stay active and healthy. However, certain sports come with a heightened risk of dental injuries. Understanding these risks can help in taking preventive measures to protect one’s oral health.

  • Hockey (Ice & Field): A quintessential contact sport, hockey is rife with potential hazards. The swift movement of the puck, combined with the use of sticks and the frequent body checks, makes dental injuries a common occurrence. Even with protective face shields, the risk remains, emphasizing the importance of additional mouth protection.
  • Basketball: While not classified as a contact sport, basketball sees its fair share of dental traumas. The close proximity of players, jumping to make shots or block them, and accidental elbows to the face can lead to unexpected dental injuries. According to recent studies, basketball is the most frequent sport associated with dental injuries among 13 to 17-year-olds.
  • Martial Arts & Boxing: These sports involve direct contact, with punches, kicks, and strikes being integral components. It’s no surprise that participants face a high risk of dental trauma. Mouthguards are not just recommended; they’re essential.
  • Other Sports: While the above sports are often highlighted due to their obvious risks, others like soccer and baseball. In fact, baseball accounts for the most dental injuries in the 7 to 12-year-old cohort.

This list is by no means exhaustive and almost all sports, even non-contact pursuits such as cycling, present a significant risk to the oral health of young children and teenagers.

Types of Dental Trauma in Sports

Engaging in sports can be exhilarating, but as we’ve just discussed, it also comes with its share of risks concerning dental injuries. The nature and severity of these injuries can vary widely, and understanding them is crucial for both prevention and treatment.

With that in mind, let’s delve into the different types of dental trauma that athletes, especially young ones, might encounter on the field or court.

Tooth Fractures

Tooth fractures can range from minor to severe, depending on the layers of the tooth affected.

  • Enamel Fractures: These are the most superficial fractures, affecting only the outermost layer of the tooth. While they might not cause immediate pain, they can make the tooth more susceptible to decay.
  • Enamel-Dentin Fractures: More severe than enamel fractures, these affect both the outer enamel and the underlying dentin. Such fractures can be sensitive to temperature changes and touch, given that the dentin is closer to the nerve of the tooth.
  • Enamel-Dentin-Pulp Fractures: The most severe of the three, these fractures go through the enamel, dentin, and reach the pulp of the tooth, which contains the nerve and blood vessels. They can be extremely painful and often require immediate dental intervention.

Tooth Dislocations

A forceful impact can displace a tooth from its original position in various ways.

  • Lateral Luxation: The tooth is displaced sideways, remaining in the socket but at an abnormal angle.
  • Extrusion: The tooth is partially pushed out of its socket, making it appear longer than neighboring teeth.
  • Intrusion: The tooth is pushed into the jawbone. This type of injury is particularly concerning as it can affect the tooth’s root and the surrounding bone.


Perhaps one of the most alarming dental injuries, avulsion refers to the complete displacement of the tooth out of its socket. Immediate action, like placing the tooth in milk or a saline solution and seeking emergency dental care, can sometimes save the tooth.

Regarding the most common injuries, research has shown lacerations, fractures, and avulsions are the most reported types of dental trauma (in that order), with fractures being the most common injury to permanent teeth (as opposed to milk teeth). In terms of location, 50 to 90% of sporting dental injuries involve the maxillary incisors.

In other words, when these incidents do occur, they often result in quite severe dental trauma, further emphasizing the need to take effective preventative measures.

The Importance of Prevention in Avoidance of Sports-Related Dental Trauma

A child wearing a sports mouth guard.The risk of dental trauma in many sports underscores the importance of preventive measures. Just as we wouldn’t imagine stepping onto a football field without cleats or diving into a pool without goggles, protective gear for our teeth should be a non-negotiable aspect of our sports kit.

So let’s look at how we can best protect the smiles of our adolescents.

Mouthguards: A Shield for Your Smile

At the forefront of dental injury prevention in sports is the mouthguard. These protective devices cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth, injuries to the lips and face, and even jaw fractures. There are generally two types of mouthguards available:

  1. Over-the-counter mouthguards: Stock mouthguards are pre-formed and ready to wear. While they are convenient and relatively inexpensive, they often don’t fit perfectly and can be bulky, making breathing and talking difficult. There are also boil-and-bite mouthguards which offer some degree of molding to the teeth, but not much. 
  2. Custom-fitted mouthguards: Crafted specifically for the individual by a dentist, these mouthguards provide a better fit than their over-the-counter counterparts. They are more comfortable, allow for better breathing, and offer superior protection due to their precise fit.

The difference in protection between these two types is substantial. A study by Knapik et al. (2007) found that mouthguards, especially custom-fitted ones, significantly reduce the risk of sports-related dental injuries. Their research emphasized that the efficacy of mouthguards in preventing oral trauma is undeniable, with those opting not to wear one 2.33 times more likely to experience dental trauma.

Helmets and Face Guards: Additional Layers of Protection

While mouthguards are essential for protecting the teeth and mouth, helmets with face guards offer added protection, especially in high-contact sports. These helmets shield the face from direct hits, further reducing the risk of dental and facial injuries. Sports like hockey, football, and lacrosse often mandate the use of such protective headgear, recognizing their critical role in injury prevention.

In conclusion, while the thrill of the game is enticing, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Investing in quality protective gear, especially custom-fitted mouthguards, is a small price to pay for the peace of mind they offer. After all, a game is best enjoyed when we know we’re playing it safely.

The Underutilization of Mouthguards in Youth Sports

Despite the clear evidence pointing to the efficacy of mouthguards in preventing sports-related dental injuries, their use remains surprisingly low among young athletes.

A survey commissioned by the American Association of Orthodontists delivered some concerning statistics on this front. The survey revealed that a staggering 67% of parents stated their children do not wear a mouthguard during organized sports. Even more alarming is the fact that 84% of these young athletes abstain from wearing mouthguards simply because it’s not a mandated requirement, even though other protective equipment like helmets and shoulder pads are often compulsory.

The reasons behind these statistics might be varied, from misconceptions about the effectiveness of mouthguards to the costs of a custom-fitted device designed by a dentist. However, the potential consequences of not wearing a mouthguard – a lifetime of dental complications and the associated costs – far outweigh any perceived inconveniences of using one.

In light of these findings, it’s crucial for you as a parent, coach, or athletes to recognize the importance of mouthguards. They’re not just an optional accessory but a vital piece of protective equipment that can prevent severe dental trauma. As with helmets and pads, mouthguards should be seen as an essential part of an athlete’s gear, ensuring both their oral health and overall well-being.

Protecting the Future of Our Young Athletes: The Lasting Impact of Dental Safety in Sports

The world of sports, while fostering teamwork, discipline, and physical fitness, also comes with its set of risks. And when it comes to our young athletes, their oral health can be jeopardized in a split second, leading to consequences that last a lifetime.

Awareness is the first step. Athletes, coaches, and especially parents must be educated about the potential dangers lurking on the field, court, or rink. It’s not just about understanding the risks but actively taking steps to mitigate them. Protective gear, especially mouthguards, plays a pivotal role in this endeavor.

While stock or boil-and-bite mouthguards might seem like a cost-effective solution, they often fall short in providing the comprehensive protection that a young athlete’s mouth requires.

Dentist-created mouthguards, though a bit more of an investment upfront, offer superior fit and protection. When you weigh the cost of a custom mouthguard against potential dental treatments that can run into tens of thousands of dollars, the choice becomes clear. 

So, if you’re seeking the best protective measures for your child’s specific sports and activities, consider reaching out to us here at Ontario Kids N Braces. Not only do we boast expertise in creating custom mouthguards but we are on hand to offer professional advice and safety recommendations.

Remember, the best defense against sports-related dental injuries is a good offense. So don’t be afraid to make an investment in your young athlete’s future, both on and off the field.


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G, S., Shields, B. J., Fields, S. K., Comstock, R. D., & Smith, G. A. (2009). Consumer products and activities associated with dental injuries to children treated in United States emergency departments, 1990-2003. Dental Traumatology, 25(4), 399–405. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-9657.2009.00800.x 

Glendor, U. (2008b). Epidemiology of traumatic dental injuries – a 12 year review of the literature. Dental Traumatology, 24(6), 603–611. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-9657.2008.00696.x 

Azadani, E. N., Peng, J., Townsend, J. A., & Collins, C. L. (2022). Traumatic dental injuries in high school athletes in the United States of America from 2005 to 2020. Dental Traumatology, 39(2), 109–118. https://doi.org/10.1111/edt.12800 

Sports-related oral and facial injuries in the young athlete: a new challenge for the pediatric dentist. (1986, December 1). PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2952943/

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Knapik, J. J., Hoedebecke, B. L., Rogers, G. G., Sharp, M. A., & Marshall, S. W. (2019b). Effectiveness of Mouthguards for the Prevention of Orofacial Injuries and Concussions in Sports: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 49(8), 1217–1232. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01121-w

Knapik, J. J., Hoedebecke, B. L., & Mitchener, T. A. (2020b). Mouthguards for the prevention of orofacial injuries in military and sports activities: Part 2, Effectiveness of mouthguard for protection from orofacial injuries. Journal of Special Operations Medicine : A Peer Reviewed Journal for SOF Medical Professionals, 20(3), 114. https://doi.org/10.55460/ifcd-6d3a

Policy on Prevention of Sports-Related Orofacial Injuries. (n.d.). American Association of Pediatric Dentistry. https://www.aapd.org/media/policies_guidelines/p_sports.pdf