One in five Irish children is affected by dental trauma

A leading expert in dental trauma has called on parents to make sure that their children wear properly fitting mouth guards when playing contact sports.

Dr Anne O’Connell, Consultant In Paediatric Dentistry and Director of the Trauma Clinic at Dublin Dental University Hospital, highlighted the fact that one  in five Irish children and adolescents is affected by dental trauma.

Speaking at the HSE Dentists annual seminar in Athlone, Dr O’Connell said prevention is the key priority.

“A good 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. Clearly this compromises their ability to offer effective protection.”

Dr O’Connell pointed out that dental trauma doesn’t just happen in organised sports.

“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”

It’s estimated that the cost of treating dental trauma injuries amongst children in Ireland is between €8 to €20m.

“This is an important public health issue and that is why Dublin Dental University Hospital 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” Dr O’Connell concluded.