Volleyball is not usually thought of as a contact sport, but the potential for facial injury is more prevalent than one may expect. As a cosmetic dentist I have treated many sports injuries over the years, including injuries suffered by volleyball players. The most common injuries occur from players colliding with elbows, knees, heads, and basically every other part of the body. In volleyball, you are on the court next to five other players in a thirty-foot square space. Across from you, there are six more players only separated by a thin net. Collisions on the court are inevitable.
I discussed the sport with one of my patients, Katie Seamon who played Division I college volleyball, semi-pro beach volleyball, and was a contestant on the 17th season of The Amazing Race. She gave me a long list of the causes and kinds of mouth injuries she has seen on the court. The most common cause of injury is player-on-player collisions. No one can stop on a dime. If two players go for the same shot it might be too late to stop yourself when you hear got it from your teammate. Taking a shoulder, elbow, or forehead to the mouth can happen.
Seamon also noted how contact often comes from the other side of the net. Jumping to block or spike at the net can make your face an open target. As Katie put it, Many players get smacked in the face with the ball point-blank. Taking direct hits to your mouth from your teammates, opponents, or the ball can cause chips, soft tissue lacerations, or teeth being knocked out.
So how can volleyball players properly protect themselves? A mouth guard can be the difference between keeping or losing your front teeth after an impact. Soft guards can also prevent teeth from cutting into soft tissue on your lip or inner cheeks upon impact, dramatically reducing tissue trauma.
In a sport where communication is key, using a guard can be seen as less popular because it can make a person difficult to understand. However, mouth guards can also be custom-made to allow for more clear speech. And there are clear benefits to using a mouth guard for protection. Mouth guard use has been proven to decrease dental injuries by over 50 percent. Though it is not confirmed, there is speculation that mouth guards can also help lower the risk of concussion. In a sport where players are required to run in every direction and often dive toward the ground, proper mouth protection can be very beneficial.
Even though the benefits are obvious, the use of mouth guards in volleyball is rare. They are not required among most high school and university teams. There are no regulations in place because volleyball is considered to have a low level of contact, along with basketball and tennis. Volleyball players should be aware of the importance of protecting the mouth when on the court and learn the steps to take in case of injury.
Save That Tooth
Take these steps to save a broken tooth and prevent further damage.
1. Dont touch the root. Mishandling can cause further damage and lessen the chance of having it successfully reattached.
2. If you can, put the tooth back in the socket. Make sure the tooth is clean (rinse with saliva, not water), then reinsert. This will help preserve the tooth from decay and harmful bacteria. Remember, teeth are used to the bacteria in your saliva, so your mouth actually is the most hygienic place for your teeth.
3. Once the tooth is reinserted, bite down on gauze or clean fabric to keep it in place.
4. If you cant reinsert it, store the tooth in milk, saliva, or temporarily hold it in your mouth between your gum and cheek. This will help preserve the tooth. Dont store the tooth in water. Water will break down the root faster and can potentially have harmful bacteria.
5. If the tooth is broken, do not attempt to reinsert it into the socket. Instead, store the pieces in saliva or milk until you can seek proper medical treatment.