Sports are a great way for children to develop motor skills as well as a spirit of teamwork and cooperation. As a parent, you recognize the many benefits of playing sports, but you also want to keep your children safe. In addition to bodily injury, sports accidents can affect your children’s teeth. An errant ball, a stray stick or another accident can cause a child to lose a tooth or suffer other oral injuries.

According to studies by the American Dental Association, athletes that do not wear mouth guards are 60 percent more likely to damage their teeth. Between 13 and 29 percent of dental injuries occur while people are playing sports. You can take proactive steps to protect your children if they participate in sports or other high-risk activities. Wearing a helmet is essential in sports that involve high speed and the risk of heavy contact like hockey, football and baseball as well as skating and bike riding. The helmet should fit correctly and be appropriate for the sport. In addition to the top, back and side of the head, a helmet and face shield will also help protect the child’s teeth and jaw.

While helmets are not standard equipment in martial arts, soccer and basketball, children should still wear mouth guards. These protective coverings shield children’s teeth, lips and tongue should they be accidentally struck in the face. The mouth guard can be custom fitted or be an off-the shelf boil-and-bite design, which are available in most sporting goods stores. Heat the guard until the plastic is soft. Once it has sufficiently cooled, place the guard in your child’s mouth and have the child bite down. If the fit is uncomfortable, repeat the process until a comfortable fit is obtained. An effective mouth guard is durable, easy to clean and does not restrict breathing or talking. You can also consult with a dentist for assistance in selecting the right mouth guard for your child. Helmets and mouth guards cushion blows that might otherwise cause injuries to the face, jaw, mouth or teeth.

Protective devices help to prevent thousands of sports-related dental injuries each year. Even with adequate precautions in place, accidents may still occur. It is important to see a dentist right away if a tooth is cracked, broken, dislodged or knocked out. Leaving a dental emergency untreated can lead to serious complications.

Health insurance generally does not cover these dental issues. If you do not have dental insurance, you will have to pay these expenses out of pocket. Having the right insurance in place will give you peace of mind knowing that your child’s dental care will be taken care in the event of an emergency.