Please welcome once again my friend and remarkable endodontist Neha Shah, D.M.D., as she informs us about dental trauma and its prevention. (She is my favorite kind of doctor, in any field of medicine or dentistry--the kind of doctor who excels at treatment, and then goes on out and helps people prevent that very treatment that she does so well!)
Seat Belts for Teeth!
As we approach the warmer seasons of spring and summer, there is a generalized increase in outside activity. Though leading an active life is extremely important, safety should be paramount.
Recreational activity may increase for the general public, however children play competitively for their school throughout the year. When they play sports for their school, the school takes on the responsibility of ensuring the student athletes’ safety. They supply them with or provide them with list of gears that are necessary for their protection. However, one of the most neglected safety gears is the mouth guard. Even though it is recommended, athletes rarely wear it especially in sports like baseball, basketball or soccer. Just as a helmet, chest vest, kneepads, and shin guards serve to protect different parts of the body; mouth guards serve to protect the teeth against impact injuries.
Dental trauma is nondiscriminatory; nonetheless, the most active kids and adults are the most susceptible. Up until we are 6- 7 years old, any injuries to teeth that occur would be to primary or “baby” teeth. And though this can be traumatizing, it is less likely to have permanent or long-term consequences. However, as the adult, permanent teeth start to form, erupt and replace our “baby” teeth, protection from trauma becomes imperative. Damage to these permanent teeth can be devastating, irreversible or permanent. The most common teeth that are prone to sport or fall injuries are our front teeth. Teeth can fracture, shift from its original position in the jaw or can completely be knocked out of the mouth. The severity, lengths of time from injury to treatment and the type of treatment rendered all have a significant impact on the outcome and long-term consequences.
Mouth guards are like seat belts. Just as seat belts help to restrain and protect the driver during an accident, mouth guards help to protect the teeth from impact and to keep the teeth in position in case of an injury. Athletic directors and coaches across schools should encourage and insist on use of mouth guards for all their student athletes.
When impact injuries to teeth do occur, it is important to see your dentist right away. Time is of the essence. The longer the tooth remains in the altered, injured state, the more likely it will have irreversible damage. This is analogous to a fractured finger, for instance. When one suspects a fractured finger, the best time for treatment is immediately. We know that the sooner the finger is splinted, the better the outcome and the faster the recovery. The concept is the same for teeth. Teeth that have sustained traumatic injury, like a dislodged tooth, will need to be splinted and require root canal therapy. The dentist may refer one to an endodontist. Endodontists are dentists who are specialist and have the knowledge and the special skills to diagnose and treat teeth with acute traumatic injuries or teeth that have had past history of traumatic injury. Endodontists, who are root canal specialists, can properly diagnose, monitor and conservatively treat teeth with traumatic injuries.
So next time, wear your mouth guard and when you are up at bat, knock one out of the park, not your mouth! But if you do, go to the dentist immediately!
Dr. Shah's office information is:
Neha Shah, D.M.D.
235 E. Jimmie Leeds Rd
Galloway, NJ 08205