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Play it Safe on Your Teeth this Fall Season

October 12, 2012

It’s Fall! Our favorite season of the year! But it also means it’s back to school and sports season. That also means:

More than 5 million teeth are knocked out each year through sports injury, accident or play. YIKES!

So, here are  few way ways to “play it safe” this sports season — and always — when it comes to oral health:

Don’t forget the mouth guard!

According to a survey of American children’s oral health, the #1  thing most student athletes won’t show up to the field with is a mouth guard. Athletes need helmets, shoulder pads, and kneepads to protect against sports-related injuries,  and mouth guards are an equally important piece of protective gear – so save your child a trip to the emergency room or to see Dr. Hayner, and purchase one before the next practice if you haven’t yet.

One in four Pittsburgh teens will be seen annually in the emergency department or admitted to the hospital for a sports-related injury.  As parents, it is important to encourage your young athletes to get in the habit of wearing mouth guards whenever they participate in sports, even if it’s just for practice or the big championship game.

You are what you drink – Limit your athlete’s intake of sports drinks.

It’s a misconception that sports drinks help replace electrolytes during vigorous exercise – meaning  young athletes are consuming  sports drinks in large quantities. However,  these drinks are doing more damage than good – they are loaded in sugar and acidic ingredients that makes these seemingly harmless liquids wreck havoc on your teeth! These drinks are meant for extreme athletes that are training over 6-7 hours a day!

The combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives in these sports drinks erode the tooth’s surface, weakening the enamel that protects teeth from bacteria. Once this enamel is gone, teeth are susceptible to bacteria —leading to hypersensitivity, staining, and eventually tooth decay. Yuck!

With the exception of the highest performing athletes who need to replenish minerals from intensive workouts, water is always the best option for staying hydrated on and off the field. If these facts haven’t scared to you to avoid the casual consumption of sports drinks, here are a few tips:

  • Moderate  the consumption of sports drinks. –  If your can’t or wont give up these sugary drinks, at least limit the consumption of them to a short amount of time. It is actually BETTER to drink an 8oz sports drink in one sitting than to slowly sip it over the course of a game! (It means less time for the sugars and acids to erode enamel!)  Also, rinsing the mouth with water or brushing your teeth after drinking a sport drink can clear away remaining acids and sugars.
  • Don’t “swish” sports drinks around in the mouth. –  Again, this bad habit only increases the risk of erosion. Using a straw so teeth aren’t immersed in it or have direct contact with the sugars and acids in the beverage can help as well.

ALWAYS! Make regular dental care a part of your child’s routine.

Children (and adults!) should see their dentist for a regular cleaning and check up every six months. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. It is however, preventable with proper care. I  can identify early signs of erosion, pinpoint the causes, and advise you on how to prevent further damage and more serious problems from occurring.

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