Nearly 60,000 people injure their faces annually while playing baseball and more than 100,000 people suffer facial injuries from bicycle accidents. This month enhances public awareness of facial protection and specialized treatment for facial injuries, at least half of which are in children. Pediatric dentists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons and orthodontists—which are all ADA- recognized dental specialists—are sponsoring “April is National Facial Protection Month.” Their message is clear: Avoid sports injuries by wearing protective equipment. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) encourage active people—children, parents, weekend warriors, professional athletes—to play it safe when getting outside this spring (or playing indoor sports). According to the National Institute of Health, childhood sports injuries may be inevitable but prevention does matter. For instance, football players can protect their faces with mouth guards and helmets. Likewise, basketball players should wear mouth guards and eye protection. A study published in the February 2003 Journal of the American Medical Association showed that players who used faceguards—devices made of plastic or metal that attached to baseball helmets—were 35 percent less likely to suffer facial injuries than non-users. Further, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that universal helmet use could save one life each day and prevent one head injury every four minutes. The Marshfield (Wisconsin) Clinic states that wearing protective eyewear can prevent 90 percent of eye injuries in the U.S. It seems the first step to facial protection is just putting on the gear. From skateboarding to rollerblading, baseball to volleyball, karate to gymnastics, downhill skiing to bicycling, all sports are contact sports. From mouth guards, to face shields, to eye shields, dental specialists advocate wearing protective gear to save face.
Top 10 Ways to Save Face
- Wear a mouth guard for any contact sport (soccer, yes; chess, probably not). Mouth guards can help prevent jaw, mouth and teeth injuries and are less costly than recovering from the injury.
- Wear a helmet and it will protect your head by absorbing the energy of an impact. You don’t have to lose your head because you take a spill when cycling, snowboarding, rollerblading or horseback riding.
- Wear protective eyewear so your mom won’t have to say, “You’ll poke your eye out.” More importantly, you’ll be able to keep your eye on the tennis ball, baseball, football, etc.
- Wear a face shield to keep your skin free from scratches and bruises. Hockey pucks, basketballs, and racquetballs can do severe damage.
- Be aware of family pets. Each year roughly 44,000 people incur facial injuries from dog bites. Children should be supervised when playing with family pets (cats and rabbits too).
- Buckle up and use appropriate child safety seats. Passengers who don’t buckle up are more likely to have a brain injury in a crash than the buckled driver.
- Keep babies and toddlers safe. They crawl and climb, so pad sharp corners of tables, use safety locks on cabinets, install stairwell safety gates, and secure windows. They also teethe, so hide the sharp pencils.
- Be alert. Alert spectators can avoid foul baseballs and flying hockey pucks. Watch your step when climbing up bleachers.
- Use common sense. If an activity carries risk of dental or facial injury, wear the right protective gear. Without it, even a pickup basketball game could result in a trip to the emergency room.
- Ask the experts. To learn more, visit www.aaoms.org, www.braces.org and www.aapd.org.