Does your insurance cover sports dental injuries?

Adam Kosloff

An estimated 3 million teeth were knocked out in 2011 during youth athletic events, according to estimates from the National Youth Support Safety Foundation. And injuries affecting the face make up one-third of all sports injuries. What are some ways to prevent dental injuries? And will insurance cover things like broken teeth and broken jaws?

Insurance coverage for dental injuries

Whether your insurance covers oral injuries depends on what kind of coverage you have and which insurance company you use. Aetna's health insurance plans, for example, generally cover some dental injuries and treatments, including:

  • Jaw injuries. This includes treatment of a dislocated jaw and facial bone fractures. So, if you fall on your jaw while playing soccer, your injury likely would be covered.
  • X-rays and diagnostic tests following an injury.
  • Tooth repair and replacement. Although Aetna's health insurance won't repair or replace teeth that have rotted or that have fallen out during chewing, it will take care of teeth broken during a sudden injury. Yet those teeth must have been free of decay and firmly attached to the jaw bone at the time of injury. So if your child's teeth are healthy and get kicked out during tae kwon do practice, any necessary repairs and replacements should be covered.

You also may have dental insurance coverage. This type of insurance generally applies to oral health maintenance -- cleanings, crowns and cavity treatment. But if you require extensive dental reconstruction after an injury, your dental insurance (if it requires reconstruction) could come in handy; if the reconstruction is not medically necessary, health insurance probably won't cover it.

Coverage varies by insurer and by plan type. Be sure to talk with your insurance company before signing the kids up for soccer or joining a pickup basketball league.

Minimizing the risk

According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, baseball and basketball are the sports most likely to cause mouth injuries. Yet all sports, from soccer and gymnastics to swimming and martial arts, pose a risk for dental injuries. Although there's no way to prevent all injuries in the fast-paced environment of sports, there are some ways to minimize your risk.

Fortunately, different kinds of mouth guards abound, according to dental insurance provider Delta Dental. They include:

  • Stock mouth guards (a low-cost, off-the-shelf option).
  • Mouth-formed protectors (molded to the athletes' teeth, offering more customized protection).
  • Custom-made mouth protectors (a mouth guard made by a dentist).

Mouth guards alone prevent 200,000 mouth sports injuries annually, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.

If a tooth does pop out, follow these tips from the University of Alabama at Birmingham:

  • Don't touch the root. It can be easily damaged.
  • Put the tooth back in the socket if possible. This gives you the best chance at preservation.
  • If you can't put the tooth back in the socket, put it in milk. Never put it in water. Milk provides nutrients that keep the cells alive, while water destroys them. Likewise, if the tooth gets dirty, wash it off with milk.
  • Go to the emergency room immediately. If the tooth has simply been broken or cracked, visit a dentist within 24 hours.