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Sports injuries: Kids need face protection

April 4, 2012 at 11:22 PM

ST. LOUIS, April 4 (UPI) -- More than half of the 7 million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by children as young as age 5, U.S. officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a child's mouth and face can be easily injured if they do not use proper precautions while playing sports.

The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation forecast last year more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events but in a survey commissioned by the American Association of Orthodontists, 67 percent of parents said their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports.

The survey by the American Association of Orthodontists found 84 percent of children do not wear mouth guards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads.

Mouth guards -- which can be the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available -- not only save teeth, they help protect jaws. Children wearing braces have slightly higher risk of oral injuries, including mouth lacerations, if their braces are hit by a ball or another player, the orthodontists said.

"Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports. Mouth guards can help prevent injury to a person's jaw, mouth and teeth; and they are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury. Dentists and dental specialists can make customized mouth guards," the American Association of Orthodontists said in a statement. "Wear a helmet. Helmets absorb the energy of an impact and help prevent damage to the head."

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