April is ‘National Facial Protection Month’

MARQUETTE – April is National Facial Protection Month, and the American Dental Association and other organizations hope to use the month to raise awareness of the frequency and severity of facial injuries, as well as how easily they can be prevented with the right protective gear. The month was so designated “basically to increase awareness of facial injuries for children and adults and also to give more information on the prevention of those facial and head injuries,” said Dr. James Jackson, a dentist in Marquette.

“What this month is about is to help us to find ways to prevent (facial injuries) as much as possible,” Jackson said. “We’re not going to prevent all the injuries, facial injuries, but we can prevent a significant number.”

One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to protect yourself is through the use of mouth guards. Mouth guards range in price, from generic one-size-fits-all models that cost about $2, to types that are boiled and then shaped to your mouth, which cost from $8 to $10, to ones custom-made by a dentist that can cost as much as $70.

Jackson said there isn’t much of a difference in terms of protection these offer, but said one made custom for you will be considerably more comfortable, making you more likely to wear it.

“The statistics are showing that the prevention of injuries is equally good no matter what kind of a mouth guard you wear,” he said. “It’s just a fact that the more comfortable ones will probably be worn for more activities than the ones that do not fit you well.”

As many as three million people go to the emergency room every year for facial injuries. More than five million teeth come out of their sockets each year due to sports injuries and trauma, Jackson said. And an athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer harm to teeth when not wearing a mouth guard.

Jackson said a big reason for many facial injuries is people are just unaware of the potential for harm in certain sports.

“If you asked a lot of people what would be the sports, maybe a couple sports, that would be highest in facial injuries – football? Hockey?” he said. “The majority of facial injuries are in sports such as baseball, basketball, soccer, field hockey, softball and gymnastics.”

Jackson said it’s far better to be proactive about protecting your face by getting a mouth guard or a face mask than to get hit with the exorbitant dental and medical bills that routinely accompany such injuries, much of which are not covered by insurance.

“The expense in repairing trauma, missing teeth, is really significant,” he said. He said that of the 40 to 50 people he treats each year for facial injuries, about 25 percent of those could have been prevented or lessened in severity by proper protection.

“I’ve put back in teeth that people have brought in from injuries from sports in everything from bicycle racing, swimming pool diving, outdoor hockey playing without a mask – and it’s not inexpensive,” he said.

He added that costs associated with facial injuries are often “in the neighborhood of $6,000 to $8,000 to replace just a few teeth that are gone, as well as the emergency room costs.”

For more information on ways to protect yourself and reduce the likelihood of injuries, visit www.academyforsportsdentistry.org.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.