Sports Injuries That Lead to Dental Implants

By Peter Lim, DDS on May 31, 2022

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Sports are popular among adults and children alike. Competitive sports among professionals and school children happen daily, as do recreational amateur sports, and sports conducted for exercise. But any physical activity is associated with some form of physical (and dental) risk. When a dental injury as a result of sports activity is too severe, you may lose one or multiple teeth. Dental implants offer an ideal solution to replace these teeth permanently. They allow you to retain your facial appearance and structure as well as sustain functional strength and bite force.

Did You Know 40% of All Dental Injuries are Sports Related?

It is estimated that 5 million people lose a tooth resulting from a sports-related injury every year and 50% of children playing sports face a dental injury before graduation! Basketball and baseball are the sports that lead to the most dental injuries, but any high speed, contact, or stick sport puts people at higher risk. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the most common dental trauma caused by sports injuries.

First Things First – Seek Immediate Dental Care!If you or a child suffers from a dental trauma as a result of playing a sport, it is important that you contact your dentist immediately for an evaluation — even if you don’t think you are injured. Many dental injuries are not visible to the naked eye, and you may not even experience pain, but there may still be damage. Injuries in the root may not have immediate symptoms but can still lead to tooth loss over time. Always play it safe and have your dentist examine your teeth to spotlight any injuries you may not be aware of.

4 of the Most Common Dental Injuries from Sports:

1. Cracked or Fractured Tooth

Many sports injuries lead to a crack in the enamel — often a long line (also known as a craze line) that starts at the top of the tooth and goes down toward the root. Some cracks are minor and cause no pain. Others lead to intermittent pain (pain that comes and goes) or pain that happens when you eat/drink cold or hot foods and beverages. Any type of crack may weaken your tooth and can limit the tooth’s strength. In these cases, your dentist will probably want to place a protective crown on the tooth to prevent any further deterioration. 

A fractured tooth is more serious and tends to cause pain when biting or chewing and/or when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drinks. In some fractures, a portion of the tooth enamel may have been lost, exposing the inner dentin and pulp layers, which leads to pain and an increased likelihood for infection. If the injury occurs across the cusp (pointed tips on the top of the tooth), the tooth may need to be extracted or you may need a root canal.

2. Fractured Roots

Some sports injuries cause a fracture in the tooth that begins at the root and moves up toward the exposed portion of the tooth. Fractured roots are not usually visible, but they can do serious damage to the tooth, ultimately leading to pain, infection, and even tooth loss. A root canal is often the best treatment of choice when a root is fractured. This is an example of a condition that your dentist can detect with immediate care after the sports injury, which can limit the pain and damage to your tooth.

3. Tooth Intrusion

Tooth intrusion occurs when a tooth is driven into the jawbone. This can happen from being hit in the face or by a hard fall onto the face/mouth. Tooth intrusion is a serious injury that can lead to destruction of tooth pulp, shortening of the root (root resorption) and ankylosis, a condition where the injured root fuses with the jawbone. Left untreated, tooth intrusion often results in tooth loss. 

4. Avulsed Tooth

An avulsed tooth means a tooth that has been knocked out of its socket. It is imperative that you take immediate action so that the tooth might be safely re-implanted. You need to get emergency care in 30 to 60 minutes for the best replacement results. If you can’t get immediate care, keep the tooth in either milk or a saline solution, not plain water. 

Please note that dental implants are not recommended for girls before the age of 15 and for boys before the age of 17. Children’s facial and mouth structure is still developing up to these ages, which could lead to failed dental implants. Dentures are bridges are recommended for younger children.

Dental Implants — The Best Replacement for Sports-Caused Tooth Loss

When a dental injury as a result of sports activity is too severe, you may lose one or multiple teeth. Dental implants provide an ideal solution to replace missing or damaged teeth permanently. They allow you to retain your facial appearance and structure as well as sustain functional strength and bite force. Depending on the injury, you may have to delay dental implants until any infections are cleared and the ligament surrounding the tooth heals, but in many cases, restoration with dental implants can occur right away.

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This article was written by Peter Lim, DDS

Dr. Peter Lim earned a Bachelor’s of science in Chemistry at Rutgers University. Prior to dental school, he achieved a Master’s of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He went on to receive his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from New York University College of Dentistry where he graduated with honors in Special Needs Dentistry. While in dental school, he served as a Clinical Research Assistant at the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research. He completed his post-graduate residency program at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. He completed the MaxiCourse® at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine

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