Summer is here! Hiking, biking, and playing at the park are some of the fun outdoor activities many families enjoy when the weather is warmer, and the days are longer. With all the fun summer doings, it’s important to keep your family safe from oral injuries.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), oral injuries among adolescents and adults often occur from falls and contact sports. By age 14, one-third of all children will have experienced a dental trauma, with 11,000 dental emergency visits annually for sports-related dental injuries in children and teens.

Among children, mouth and teeth injuries are common from slips, falls, and playground accidents. Oral injuries in children younger than six (6) years old, are the second most common injury, accounting for approximately 20% of all injuries.

Accidents can happen at any age and at any time. Oral injuries can be greatly reduced by taking protective steps to create a safe environment. Below are ways to help protect yourself and your family from oral injuries at home, outdoors, on the playground, and during action or contact sports.

At home.

Safeguard your home and always practice safety habits:

  • Use child safety gates and cover sharp corners on furniture.
  • Secure all straps on children’s products such as carriers and strollers.
  • Clear items off the floor. Avoid clutter and clean up spills.
  • Closely monitor small children and people with intellectual disabilities and special health care needs.

In the car.

The use of vehicle safety restraints such as car seats and seat belts can reduce the risk of serious injuries. In 2020, more than 63,000 child passengers 12 and under were injured (CDC):

  • Buckle children in age and size appropriate car and booster seats. Click here for car seat information for families.
  • Ensure teens and adults are always wearing a safety belt while driving or riding in the car.

On the playground.

Make sure playground areas are safe and surrounded by a soft surface such as rubber playground matting.

  • Ensure playground equipment is in good condition.
  • Assist and supervise small children on playground equipment and encourage walking instead of running.

During contact or action sports.

Wear a mouth guard or mouth protector. People who wear mouth guards are between 82% and 93% less likely to incur dental injuries (AAFP). Mouth guards are highly recommended for individuals involved in physical contact and action sports such as basketball, skateboarding, or mountain biking.

  • Mouth guards prevent injuries incurred when you receive contact to the face or mouth.
  • Mouth guards are made of soft plastic or laminate and fit over your teeth. They are effective in reducing injuries to the lips, teeth, and gums.
  • A mouth guard can cost as little as a few dollars and more for a custom-fitted mouth guard.

When cycling or skating.

ALWAYS wear a helmet. Helmets are a must if you bike, skate, skateboard, or ride a scooter. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, helmets can be up to 85% effective in protecting the head from injury.

  • Wearing a properly fitted helmet can diffuse a blow to your head and jaw.
  • During a fall or collision, most of the impact energy is absorbed by the helmet, rather than your head and brain.
  • Choose the right helmet. Whether biking, or skateboarding, always wear a helmet that is appropriate for the activity you are involved in.

Additional tips to avoid a tooth injury.

Adult teeth are the last pair we will have! Keeping them in good shape is very important. Chewing or biting down on hard objects can cause tooth fractures such as chipping, cracking, or breaking a tooth. Here are some precautions you can take to avoid injuries to your teeth.

  • Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels, hard candy, or a pencil, all of which can crack a tooth.
  • NEVER use your teeth to cut things, use scissors.
  • Do not use your teeth to open items such as a package or a bottle.

Related resources

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