When a player rises for a header – unfortunately more often than not – their elbows also rise, striking the opponent in the face. That’s just one of the ways a soccer player can suffer a dental injury.
A tooth may chip, be knocked loose or get completely knocked out. A blow to the upper or lower jaw is the usual mechanism by which the teeth can be damaged. A fractured tooth could expose the nerve, rendering the tooth very sensitive to cold, and thereby requiring the athlete to keep his/her mouth closed.
Signs and symptoms include cracking, splitting or chipping of the tooth, along with pain and sensitivity.
When managing the injury onsite, stop the bleeding by having the athlete sit with their head forward, allowing the blood to drain from the mouth. Apply pressure with sterile gauze to any areas of the mouth that may be affected.
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The injured area should be protected from the air by wrapping it in wet gauze. A small amount of calcium hydroxide can be applied to the exposed area to reduce the pain.
If a tooth has been completely knocked out, immediately replace the tooth back into the socket, provided that the tooth is clean and replacement is easily accomplished. Do not attempt to wipe the tooth clean as this may destroy an important membrane surrounding the tooth and it will delay treatment. Rinse the tooth with only water or saline solution. If it’s not possible to replace the tooth, have the athlete carefully hold it under their tongue (very carefully as the athlete may inadvertently swallow the tooth) or wrap it in a saline-soaked gauze pad. Alternatively, the tooth can be placed in a container of saline solution or milk.
A trip to the dentist is mandatory, with an immediate visit required if the tooth is completely knocked out. There’s only a small window of time to save an injured tooth.
Possible prevention of a dental injury includes the use of a mouthguard.
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Photo: Associated Press