Prevention and Wellness

Athletes and Dental Injuries 

Cody Cummins, ATC, Premier Health Sports Medicine, answers Frequently Asked Questions about athletes and dental injuries.

What are the different kinds of dental injuries?

There are multiple types of dental injuries. Some of these include tooth fractures, tooth avulsion, tooth intrusion, and tooth luxation.

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What are the differences among the different dental injuries?

A tooth fracture is what we call a chipped tooth. It can be just the enamel (the tooth’s hard outer covering) that is chipped, but it can also extend to the dentin (the hard tissue below the enamel), the pulp (the soft tissue at the tooth’s center) or even to the root of the tooth. An avulsion is when a tooth is completely removed from the socket. An intrusion is when the tooth is knocked upward into the gum. A luxation is when the tooth is displaced or dislocated. 

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How do dental injuries occur?

These injuries happen in numerous ways. Fractures, luxations, and avulsions can all occur by direct trauma to the mouth area. An example would be a baseball or softball pitcher who is struck by a line drive that hits them in the mouth. Depending on the severity of the blow, it is possible for any of these kinds of injuries to happen. An intrusion would typically occur if an athlete was running and fell, and the bottom portion of their upper row of teeth hit the ground or another object, which would push a tooth or several teeth into the gums. 

What is the best way to prevent dental injuries?

One way to help prevent dental injuries is to properly use a mouthpiece. Follow the instructions as written by the manufacturer. Athletes should avoid chewing their mouthpiece, which will decrease the effectiveness of the equipment. 

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What should be done if an athlete’s tooth is knocked out? 

If possible, place the tooth back into the socket. If the tooth does not stay in the socket, you can preserve it in other ways. Use a tooth preservation kit or store the tooth in a sealed container with milk or saliva, says the American Association of Endodontists. See a dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in saving teeth) right away if an avulsion occurs. Do not store the tooth in tap water.

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Are there other conditions to be concerned about with a dental injury?

One major concern, depending on the how the injury occurred, would be a concussion. For example, if a motor vehicle accident occurs, and the driver’s mouth hits the steering wheel, causing a tooth intrusion, a concussion is also likely. In sports, a goalkeeper may slide for the ball and be struck by another player’s foot to the face. That type of injury may also cause a concussion.

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Source: Cody Cummins, ATC, Premier Health Sports Medicine; American Association of Endodontists; American Dental Association; “Mouth Guards and Dental Emergencies,” 5/1/2018, Staywell Krames; “Dental Trauma,” 8/1/2017, Staywell Krames

Content Updated: November 21, 2018

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