Be Brave, Maybe. Be Smart, Always.

Dental_InjuryWhen you were little and fell, your parents wouldn’t make an issue of it. You were encouraged to be brave and get right up and keep playing. That habit helps you build some resilience to small injuries. But sports injuries to the mouth shouldn’t be brushed off or ignored.

“When you receive an injury to the mouth, it’s not easy to ignore,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix dentistry office. “The mouth is surrounded by a lot of nerves that help you in smiling and eating, and those nerves register pain easily,” she says. The mouth is also well supplied by capillaries, small veins and arterioles (small artery branches) and a cut can cause a lot of fast bleeding.

A sports injury to the mouth is never to be brushed off as minor. The American Association of Endodontists says, “Any dental injury, even if apparently mild, requires examination by a dentist or an endodontist immediately. Sometimes, neighboring teeth suffer an additional, unnoticed injury that will only be detected by a thorough dental exam.”

Even if a tooth looks fine, it may have sustained an internal injury, like a crack or a broken root. Those injuries don’t show up right away, and they may not hurt. Often, the pain is masked by a cut lip, which, because it is bleeding, looks worse.

If a racquet or ball has hit your face, there may be little external damage, but you could have bitten your tongue or cheek tissue. That pain, too, can cover the pain of an injured tooth.

A sharp blow to a facial nerve can result in a numbness. Nerve damage should be treated immediately by a medical team as well.

In most common injuries, a dentist can decide if the injury needs to be treated in an emergency room. More important, if a tooth is fractured, fast action can save the tooth, and a delay in treatment can cause the tooth to be lost.

“Your permanent teeth can last a lifetime, but they need your help. There are times to be brave, but when it comes to our teeth, it’s better to get a definite dental diagnosis. Your smile is worth saving,” Dr. Ford says.

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