of the nation’s top dental associations want to remind everyone to play it safe during recreational and organized sports and help prevent serious, painful facial injuries that can take the fun out of the game.

Wearing a mouthguard while playing sports is a must for everyone. Mouthguards are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury, and clinicians can make customized mouthguards that hold teeth in place and allow for normal speech and breathing.

A recently published study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), a database of injuries treated at hospital emergency departments, for the period 2001 to 2008. Researchers found the five most common causes of childhood injuries were, in order of frequency, basketball, football, bicycling, playgrounds, and soccer.

An estimated 12 million people from the ages of 5 to 22 suffer a sports-related injury annually, which leads to 20 million lost days of school and approximately $33 billion in healthcare costs.

Some of these injuries could be prevented with protective gear. “A properly fitted mouthguard is an essential piece of any athlete’s protective equipment,” says Paul Nativi, DMD, FASD, and past president of the Academy for Sports Dentistry. He recommends that parents and children talk with their dentist about what kinds of activities the family enjoys and ask about ways to make sure their teeth and face stay protected.

Every April, National Facial Protection Month strives to raise public awareness and remind parents/caregivers, coaches, and athletes to play it safe while playing sports. The Academy for Sports Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, and American Dental Association collaborate to promote the 2015 National Facial Protection Month observance and help people learn more about how simple it can be to make a play for better safety.