April is National Facial Protection Month, and in an article in the Lansing State Journal, Catherine E. Novak, DDS, Holt, Mich, suggests that orthodontists remind athletes, their parents, and coaches to wear mouthguards and appropriate protective gear when playing sports that could cause injuries.

Mouthguards are one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Over-the-counter versions cost as little as $5. Mouthguards not only save teeth and protect jaws from breaks, but Novak notes that mouthguards may also protect against neck injuries and central nervous system injuries by decreasing the force transmitted through the jaw to the base of the skull.

Novak advises orthodontists to remind youngsters to always use a mouthguard when participating in any activity during which the mouth could come into contact with a hard object or the pavement.

“Athletes who wear braces should consult their orthodontist for a recommendation of the best mouthguard to wear during orthodontic treatment,” Novak said.

In the event of a dental injury, Novak suggests offering these tips:

For a broken tooth:

  • Clean the injured area, and apply ice.
  • Save the tip of the tooth for possible reattachment, and call a dentist right away.

For a knocked-out tooth:

  • Locate the tooth; hold it by the crown.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching the root.
  • Rinse the tooth only if there is a need to remove debris.
  • Put the tooth back in its socket; cover it with gauze or tissue, and bite down to stabilize it; if needed, briefly store the tooth in cold milk or salt water, or between the cheek and gum.
  • Do not let the tooth dry out. A tooth may be saved if cared for properly and reimplanted with an hour, so call a dentist immediately.

National Facial Protection Month is sponsored annually by the AAO, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.