20 per cent of children suffer dental trauma

Paediatric consultant warns of perils of ill-fitting sports mouth guards

A leading paediatric dentist has warned that one in five Irish children is affected by dental trauma, saying that ill-fitting sports mouth guards are a major factor.

Dr Anne O’Connell, consultant in paediatric dentistry and director of the trauma clinic at Dublin Dental University Hospital (DDUH), was speaking at the HSE dentists’ annual seminar in Athlone. She highlighted that prevention is the key priority and that parents need to be educated in providing properly fitted mouth guards to their children.

She said: “A well-fitting mouth guard will cover all the teeth onto the gum and should not drop when speaking. Unfortunately, too many children here are using ill-fitting mouth guards. For example, many of the ‘boil and bite’ type are not being heated appropriately and are failing to cover the teeth or are loose. This compromises their ability to offer effective protection.

“In Ireland, one in four pre-schoolers has a dental trauma and children who have had an injury or who have prominent teeth may also need to wear mouth guards depending on the organised activity. It’s also important that toddlers who have had a dental trauma are assessed on an ongoing basis as their permanent teeth may be affected.”

Dr O’Connell pointed out that the estimated cost of treating dental trauma in children could be up to €20 million. She continued: “This is an important public health issue and that is why DDUH is currently conducting a study trying to estimate how much it costs to treat traumatic injuries to permanent teeth in children. As well as the basic financial cost, there are often psychological issues, lost school days and time off work for parents.

“The sporting bodies such as rugby, hockey and GAA all deserve praise for making ‘no mouth guard, no play’ mandatory policy. Children who are very active in other sports or who have already had trauma should also wear mouth guards. Parents need to play their part and ensure their children have effective dental protection.”

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