April signals a much-welcomed spring. Blooming flowers and melting snow are only part of the season’s story though. Outdoor activities and sports like baseball warm up in April too. That means an increase in facial injuries. It’s little wonder that April is National Facial Protection Month, when organizations across the country work to raise awareness about how to prevent injuries to the face and mouth.
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), two percent of America’s youth “who participate in sports eventually will suffer a facial injury severe enough to require medical attention.” Ranging from severe cuts to lost teeth, the mouth is a frequent target.
Prevention is Key.
Many injuries would never happen if the victims wore protective equipment suited to the activity. The American Dental Association endorses the use of proper facial protective gear in any sport or recreational activity “with some degree of injury risk.”
Inexpensive goggles protect precious eyesight while properly-fitted helmets prevent tragic head injuries—yet both are often neglected. Face guards and shields protect the mouth, but the single most important protection for the teeth is a mouth guard.
Widely available, mouth guards come in several different types. Many consumers are mistakenly guided by the activity’s risk to the mouth and their budgets. Inexpensive stock mouth guards found in department stores are the least effective and the most uncomfortable.
Custom mouth guards built from impressions made by a dentist are both effectual and fit snug enough to not interfere with speech and breathing. Custom mouth guards are expensive though. So-called “boil and bite” mouth guards that are boiled and bitten down on to make an impression are an inexpensive yet excellent intermediate option.
Broken teeth serve as dramatic evidence of the need to wear proper mouth guards, although these guards are by no means foolproof. If a tooth or part of one is broken off and found, it can sometimes be repaired or re-implanted. The tooth should be kept in water, milk or even tucked away in the mouth. Preventing it from drying out and finding timely medical assistance is critical.
Bleeding from cuts and other trauma in the mouth is common and can be serious. Facial and head wounds often bleed profusely and should be covered with a clean dressing. Interrupt continuous pressure only to add—never remove—more dressings as they become soaked. If the cut is inside the mouth, rinse once with clean water then, while gently biting down on a dressing or cloth, seek medical attention.
Of course the mouth is not the sole target of an errant baseball. Flying missiles of all sorts have broken noses and jaws, stolen vision and caused enough head injury to take someone’s life. Remember that if the head is struck hard in any way, watch that person closely. Some injuries—like concussions and spinal injuries—might not appear right away.
How Can I Help?
Anybody can become a partner during this nationwide effort. Start by learning how to protect the faces and mouths of those you care for. Then, share what you learn.
If you want to do more contact any of the organizations sponsoring National Facial Protection Month. You can put up posters, hand out brochures, donate money or time and much more.
Five sponsoring dental and medical professional organizations who promote National Facial Protection Month are the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the Academy for Sports Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Association of Orthodontists, and the American Dental Association.