Take care when playing sport

BE AWARE: Be aware of situations where you're more likely to fall in such a way that you can damage your teeth such as riding a bike or contact sports where a mouth-guard is recommended. Photo: Shutterstock.
BE AWARE: Be aware of situations where you're more likely to fall in such a way that you can damage your teeth such as riding a bike or contact sports where a mouth-guard is recommended. Photo: Shutterstock.

IF an accident happens while playing sport or as a result of a childhood mishap and a tooth is knocked out, the faster you act the better the chance of saving it.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is urging anyone engaged in physical activities to know what to do if this situation arises. Acting swiftly and decisively is key.

"Accidents can happen for kids or adults at any time - some with quite serious consequences for our teeth," ADA President Dr Carmelo Bonanno said.

"But the trauma of a dental injury can be minimised if you know what to do if you or a family member suffers damage to teeth."

The ADA advises the following:

If your child knocks out a 'baby' tooth (typically in place until the age of seven) before it's ready to come out, find the tooth and only hold it by the crown (the visible, white enamel part), and not the root.

Depending on your child's age, the baby tooth may not have much root structure remaining. If you're unsure if it's a 'baby' or 'adult' tooth, don't try to reinsert it back into the mouth.

Instead put it into a sealed container containing a small amount of cow's milk or your child's saliva and head straight to your dentist.

Why milk? The milk, or saliva helps to keep the roots intact while water can damage the root's cells. If the accident happened after normal dental practice hours, head to an after-hours dentist.

"The dentist will check for any other damage in the mouth. Baby teeth aren't put back into the mouth because an adult tooth will replace it eventually," explained Dr Bonanno.

The same handling rules apply to adult teeth. If the tooth is dirty, give it a gentle rinse in milk, the preferable option, or briefly in tap water, but don't scrub it.

An ideal scenario for the best outcome is to see a dentist within 30 minutes of the accident happening.

With adult teeth you should place the tooth back into position inside the mouth, making sure it's facing the right way around.

Then gently bite down on soft cloth or tissue or use aluminium foil or your mouth-guard to hold it in place.

If you can't replant the tooth in its original position, transport it to your dentist in milk or saliva, but not water. Your dentist will then typically splint it to the adjacent teeth while waiting for the adult tooth to re-attach inits socket.

Other big no-no's for tooth transportation include wrapping the tooth in paper towel or a serviette, scrubbing the root surface of the tooth when rinsing it, and delaying seeing a dentist.

The sooner you do, the better the long-term outcome.

"The most effective way to prevent dental injuries during sport or games is to wear a custom-fitted mouthguard made by a dentist," he added.

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