Every year in March, college basketball players from all over the United States come together to participate in the NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament. Hundreds of athletes battle it out to be the last team standing in the finals. To do this it takes hours of practice, dedication, and taking care of their health.
One aspect of overall health that is often forgotten by athletes is their oral health. Unfortunately, a dental emergency can take even the most dedicated player out of the game. Therefore, athletes must make the extra effort to protect their smiles on and off the court. With March Madness right around the corner, let’s investigate the connections between sports and oral health injuries, as well as go over methods of oral health protection for athletes both on and off the court.
Sports and oral health injuries
While participating in competitive sports is fun and exciting, it also increases your chance of an injury occurring. Some injuries are more common than others, such as oral health injuries.
Common oral health injuries in sports:
- Maxillary/mandibular fractures
- Tooth fractures
- Tooth loss
- Oral lacerations
While people often associate dental trauma with sports like hockey, nearly every sport has the potential to cause oral health injuries. Basketball, baseball, football, skiing, snowboarding, martial arts, rugby, and others are just a few examples of sports that have a high likelihood of oral health trauma.
Many of the above sports recommend mouthguards as a precaution to protect against dental health injuries. Mouthguards are vital when participating in any of these sports because you never know when your teeth will need protection.
Basketball may not seem like a sport that causes oral health injuries, but dental trauma often occurs from contact with other players. With March Madness on the horizon, keep an eye out to see if any dental health injuries occur and how many of the athletes are using mouthguards to protect their pearly whites.
Teeth protection for athletes on the court
One of the most important things an athlete can do to protect their mouth is to wear proper protective gear. For many sports, a custom mouthguard is a great protective tool. However, wearing a mouthguard is sometimes seen as “unnecessary” or “uncool” to young players. This is where professional athletes can make a difference.
If you have ever heard or seen anything related to professional basketball you have probably heard of Steph Curry. Often regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time, Curry has made wearing a mouthguard popular (although some of the time he isn’t really wearing the mouthguard). Curry wears a mouthguard because he was elbowed in the face and busted up his lip playing college basketball at Davidson. But since the rise of Steph Curry, it has become more common for NBA and college basketball players to wear mouthguards.
Whether it is for basketball or skiing, a mouthguard that does not fit correctly is ineffective against oral health injuries. Here are mouthguards that Delta Dental recommends:
- Ready-made or stock mouthguards: Since the fit can’t be adjusted, these mouthguards are less effective than a fitted option.
- Mouth-formed “boil and bite” mouthguard: These can be purchased at sporting goods stores and are molded to the individual’s mouth.
- Custom-made mouthguards: These are considered the best option but are also the most expensive. These are made by dentists from a mold of your teeth. They fit perfectly in your mouth and are the most comfortable mouthguard on the market today.
Mouthguards are instrumental to oral health protection on the court, but protecting your teeth is just as significant off the court.
Teeth protection for athletes off the court
Oral health protection starts with your at-home routine. Brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing once daily is recommended by dental professionals for everyone, including athletes. Although long hours of training may deter athletes from taking care of their oral health, it’s important they make the effort.
Here are some tips to make sure your teeth stay healthy off the court:
Must-have oral health materials:
- A toothbrush that is ADA approved
- Fluoride toothpaste
Now that we have our materials, here is a step-by-step process of brushing your teeth.
- Splash some water on your toothbrush.
- Apply a small amount of fluoride toothpaste to your toothbrush.
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle.
- Insert the toothbrush into your mouth and begin gently brushing back and forth on each tooth. During these two minutes of brushing, you should spend about 30 seconds in each of the four quadrants of your mouth.
- Repeat this process twice a day.
Brushing for two minutes might seem like an eternity, but it’s essential to make sure each tooth is cleaned correctly.
Here are some tips and techniques to make sure you are flossing the right way.
- Use about 18 inches of floss.
- Wrap the floss around one of your middle fingers, with the rest of the floss wrapped around your other middle finger.
- Wrap the floss until you create about a 1-inch gap with the floss tightly held between your thumbs and pointer fingers.
- Gently slide the floss between your teeth – curving it in a C-shape around each tooth.
- Adjust the floss before moving on to the next tooth, so the following tooth gets a fresh clean.
- Repeat this process once a day on every tooth in your mouth.
Flossing shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Make sure that you don’t floss too hard and use new floss every time you clean your teeth.
Following these brushing and flossing tips is important to keep your mouth healthy, but there is only so much that you can do without visiting the dentist.
We recommend that you visit the dentist at least two times a year (once every six months).
These dental visits are significant because dentists can clean areas in your mouth that aren’t reachable with a toothbrush or floss. Dental visits can also spot signs of tooth decay, gingivitis, cavities, or even signs of oral cancer.
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