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Sports or Activities

Some dental emergencies can be life-threatening and require immediate attention. If there is a severe issue such as trauma to the face, head, or neck, swelling that restricts breathing, or excessive bleeding, seek urgent care or dial 911 immediately.

Sports and recreational activities, especially those that involve physical contact, involve oral health risks. At any age, it is important to protect your face and mouth from impact and other dental-related issues when participating in sports or other activities.

Dental injuries from sports and activities can be minimized. The most important thing you can do is wear a properly fitted mouthguard, face mask, or cage. Talk to your dentist about the best protection based on the activities you do.

Facial impacts can cause a variety of injuries. Some common issues that occur are:

  • Trauma to the head, face, or neck
  • A tooth that is chipped or cracked
  • A tooth that is displaced or knocked out
  • Jaw injuries
  • Soft tissue injuries (lips, tongue, cheeks, or gums)
  • Damage to orthodontic braces, wires, or appliances

There are also other connections between good oral health and sports. For example, "bad" bacteria in your mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause or worsen inflammation and infections in other parts of your body. This may undermine athletic performance.1

Other considerations

  • Energy foods and sports drinks: Many energy foods and drinks contain sugar and/or acids. This can contribute to tooth decay and enamel erosion. It is important to rinse your mouth with clean water after ingesting these items to help wash away the sugars.
  • Nutrition: Many athletes follow diets high in carbohydrates, which have high sugar content. Sugar can contribute to tooth decay if good oral hygiene habits are not followed.
  • Drug testing: Some medications prescribed by dentists for pain management can be transformed in the body into banned substances. You should speak to your dentist to ensure that the medications they prescribe won't put you at risk of failing sports-related drug testing.1
  • Swimming: The chlorine in pools is highly acidic. This can increase swimmers' risk of enamel erosion. Swimmers should always rinse their mouths with clean, fresh water after swimming. It is also recommended that brushing be delayed after swimming until your mouth can return to its normal state.1
  • Stress: Stress is part of sports, but high levels of cortisol (the "stress hormone") can increase the risk for tooth decay, enamel erosion, tooth grinding or clenching (bruxism), and periodontal disease.1
  • Dry Mouth: Dry mouth (xerostomia) is mainly caused by dehydration, stress, sweating, and mouth breathing which are common in people participating in athletics or strenuous activities. Dry mouth can lead to a rapid formation of tooth decay, especially at the gumline.
  • Good oral hygiene: Teeth with decay or restorations such as fillings and crowns are not as strong as natural teeth, making them more prone to damage if a facial injury occurs.
  • Orthodontics: If you wear braces or appliances, ask your dentist about special mouthguards to reduce the chance of breaking them. If possible, remove orthodontic appliances during contact sports and store them in a safe, clean case.

Author: Symbyos staff, Fluent staff
Last updated: 5/17/2021Medical review: Thomas J. Greany DDS, 5/15/2021
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