Guide to Dental Safety For Youth Sports in Alpharetta GA

Alpharetta Youth Sports Dental Guide

Alpharetta Youth Sports and Your Childs Dental Safety

Since we’re a pediatric dentist, we see many of Alpharetta’s children. Many of our patients are active athletes in the community. They play a variety of sports are actively engaged in the local community programs in Alpharetta.

Over the years we’ve seen all types of chipped teeth and dental injuries that have come through our doors because of a sports injury. Many times parents don’t ask questions about the safety of their child’s teeth until after an injury occurs or if they see a teammate or friend have a bloody mouth and teeth knocked out.

Many assume the safety regulations of the league take care of everything, however many rules and policies don’t take into consideration dental health. Since we’re an office with a pediatric team we particularly care about the health of our children’s smiles. Therefore, we created this guide to highlight the local sports of Alpharetta and their safety regulations and ones we recommend to augment the safety of your child’s smile.

We also have a guide for our families from Johns Creek, who we often see as well.

Basketball – Alpharetta Recreation and Parks Department

The Alpharetta Recreation and Parks Department manages the youth basketball programs. Youth basketball has leagues for boys and girls ages 6 – 15. The different leagues are as follows:

Boys
6 – 7 Years Old
8 Years Old
9 Years Old
10 Years Old
11 Years Old
12 Years Old
13 Years Old
14 – 15 Years Old

Girls
6 – 8 Years Old
9 – 10 Years Old
11 – 13 Years Old

Alpharetta youth basketball starts in November and goes into February. Practices are one hour a week and games are on Saturday.

With basketball, the main concerns tend to be on the ankles as this is where most injuries occur. However, with basketball being a contact sport that doesn’t have players wear any protective gear, there is risk to injury with elbows flying and kids jumping in the air.

Alpharetta Parks & Recreation Basketball Uniforms and Equipment

The equipment and jersey rules are pretty lax with no uniforms being provided. The rule is that all players must wear jerseys/t-shirts and have numbers sewn, screened or heat transferred onto the back.

The only other rule is that all players are required to remove all jewelry before the game. Usually this also includes watches, as watches can cause cuts for other players.

Besides that, there are no explicit rules or recommendations that we were able to find on the official rules of the league. If you want to look through the rules, you can download them on Alpharetta’s Park & Recreation site.

Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry Recommendations – Mouthguard

For basketball, there are many precautions you can take, including ankle and/or knee braces. However, we’re not physical therapists or sports doctors. We’re pediatric dentists and our main concern is the health of your child’s teeth.

The common thought is that it’s youth basketball. They aren’t moving at the same speed and agility as the professionals. In addition, many professional players don’t wear mouthguards, which makes many kids want to follow along.

However, though the games aren’t as physical or fast, there are still risks of tripping and colliding. Therefore, we highly recommend the use of at least a mouthguard in basketball. For basketball, a standard mouthguard, whether its stock mouth, boil and bite or a custom mouthguard, they should all work.

There’s no need for anything extra, like the oxygen mouthguards that are popular with football players. Your standard mouthguard will be fine.

And if your child doesn’t want to wear a mouthguard, there are many players who wear mouthguards today. Top players including Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant wear a mouthguard when the play. This helps encourage your child to wear them, as the best of the best at the highest stage are wearing them.

Baseball – Alpharetta Youth Baseball Association

Baseball in Alpharetta is coordinated by the Alpharetta Youth Baseball Association (AYBA). They’ve begun their 2018 season and started games in early September. The leagues are broken down as:

4 – 6 Year Old Co-ed TBall
7 – 8 Year Old Co-ed Coach Pitch
9 – 10 Year Old Baseball
11 – 12 Year Old Baseball
13 – 15 Year Old Baseball
16 – 19 Year Old Baseball

For baseball though it isn’t a contact sport, there are many aspects of the game that have some risk for your child. This includes batting, pitching, base running, etc. Because the children aren’t as coordinated yet and they are learning the game, it can be hard for them to keep their eye on the ball. It can be hard for them to throw the ball exactly where they intended it to go. Errant balls or bats can hit a child in the face.

Therefore, we have the following recommendations for our Alpharetta baseball players when it comes to protecting their teeth.

Helmets with Face Cage or Ear Flaps

For children that play in the the 7 – 8 U and under leagues, players that are playing the position of pitcher “must wear a protective and/or caged helmet”. Once you get to the 9 – 10 U and higher the rules change a bit where there is no mandatory rule for pitchers to wear a helmet.

In addition, for all the leagues, catchers are expected to wear all the required equipment as well including a helmet, chest protector and leg guards. Once you get past 9U Leagues the rules also specifically stipulate that catchers must be properly equipped with a protective cup.

These are all the explicit rules given by the league. Now we also do recommend, as we have in other posts, that when batting we do encourage players to wear extra protection. The most popular helmet is the standard one you see in baseball. The helmet is rounded and ends at the ear.

With baseball and pitching, the ball travels very fast and sometimes errant pitches can be thrown. The worst is to have it hit you smack in the face. The standard baseball helmet doesn’t offer any protection when it comes to your child’s teeth.

So we do recommend that you consider getting a helmet that has additional protection. Helmets with extra protection include with a face cage or at the very least an ear flap. These will provide a little bit more safety for your child if a ball is to ricochet to their mouth.

The great thing is that players don’t need to wear their batting helmets their entire time playing. It really only is for batting and after that they don’t need to wear the helmet in the other positions.

Defense

When playing defense there aren’t any rules for protection beyond the pitcher and catcher. So that means most players will be out there with their baseball glove and baseball caps. Their main objective is to be catching fly balls or ground balls, but those who want to be extra cautious can consider a mouthguard for their child when playing defense.

However, at young ages when players are still developing their skills and athletic ability, there are occasions when fly balls are missed and the ball can make impact with your child.

I think we’re all familiar with keeping your eye on the ball, you have your glove and all you have to do is wait for it to land in your glove, only to miss it at the last second and SMACK you right in the face.

It’s the growing pains of the sport and it happens. For those occasions, you can’t be wearing a batting helmet or one with a face cage, but you can have your child wear a mouthguard to be extra careful.

Chewing Gum, Sunflower Seeds and Other Baseball Foods

One of the best parts of baseball is the food. Both for the crowd and for the players. The culture of baseball includes lots of different traditions that date back to the early days of the sport. Listen to any sports talk show and they’ll often talk about how baseball is an old man’s game that doesn’t like change and likes to keep to tradition.

A part of this culture and tradition is the culture of the dugout. Many players in the dugout start chewing gum and eating sunflower seeds. To be honest, we’re not 100% sure why this happened and we’re sure there are baseball documentaries or scholars who can tell us where it developed. Despite all of that, it’s very common for kids to start developing their own rituals and habits.

One of the major parts of baseball is the chewing gum. One of the more well known, popular brands of gum, the brand itself has a baseball player on the packaging. Interestingly enough, gum’s heavy adoption in baseball was seen as a positive change as it helped many players get off chewing tobacco and move to gum.

As you know, gum can be extremely sugary and with your child constantly exposed to the sugar, it can rot away at your teeth. Therefore, if your child is excited to start chewing gum while playing baseball, try to get them gum that is sugar free.

Another popular part of dugout culture is sunflower seeds. Many players love cracking open sunflower seeds during the game. As a matter of fact, you’ll see many dugouts filled with sunflower seed shells spit all over the ground. Though sunflower seeds are not packed with sugar, the repeated action of cracking open seeds with your teeth will weather down your teeth. The repeated impact of the countless sunflower seeds will take a toll on your teeth as well, so it’s best not to be developing that habit.

Lastly, though VERY rare and unlikely, baseball has a history with chewing tobacco. It probably will never come up while your child is playing in their youth league, but it can be introduced. Be mindful to watch out for chewing tobacco as it is terrible for your mouth and jaw, introducing carcinogens and cancers to your body. This goes far beyond your child’s teeth and starts to affect their holistic health.

Baseball is a great game and there isn’t much contact where your child is going to be hit or taking contact. However, with baseball having fast speeds and balls ricocheting off bats, you want to take as much precaution so that your child doesn’t have any teeth knocked out.

Softball – Alpharetta Youth Softball Association

The softball leagues in Alpharetta are run by the Alpharetta Youth Softball Association (AYSA). The division breakdown is as follows:

6U
8U
10U
12U
13+
Travel

For softball, AYSA provides a series of equipment for each team. This includes:

  • Catcher’s gear
  • Practice balls
  • Bats and Batting helmets

Players are to bring their own cleats.

Just like baseball, softball is not a contact sport but it comes with the very same risk of injuries. When we reviewed the rules of the Softball league, we saw that the league takes a lot of precautions with their players and have one of the more safety friendly rules of the different sports leagues.

Helmets with Mask & Chinstraps

The softball leagues take a lot of precaution to make sure their players protect their face when playing. The helmets that the league provides have attached masks and chinstraps. This offers the players a great safety barrier around their face and mouth. It’s great to see that AYSA provides this equipment to all of its players.

Even for those players who want to use their own helmets, the league stipulates that if players use their own batting helmet, the helmet must have attached masks and chinstraps.

In addition, the rules state that players who play the pitcher position must have a mouthguard or a facemask. For those players who are in 10U and under, all players have to wear their facemasks when on the field.

When your reading through the entire section of Equipment, you’ll see that the majority of the rules talk about facemasks, mouthguards and helmets. It seems like the league has taken the initiative to make sure their player’s face and dental safety is protected and as a pediatric dentist office, we couldn’t be happier to see this.

Mouthguards

Like the helmets, the league does a great job encouraging mouthguards as well. Its almost as if they read through our recommendations in the baseball section and applied them to the AYSA rules. Now I wish we could take credit for this, but really, they all the credit goes to the organization.

Now the rules aren’t mandatory, but they strong encourage that all players who are on the field wear a mouthguard. We are 100% behind this.

You never know how a ball is going to ricochet or where an errant pass will go and it’s always good to have the mouthguard to protect against any accidental impact of the ball and your face.

Chewing Gum & Dugout Snacks

Similar to baseball, many players have their own dugout rituals and habits. If players want to chew gum ensure that they are chewing sugar free gum. Constantly chewing gum packed with sugar will eat away at the teeth and will see teeth rot.

Above, we wrote a section about baseball and different dugout habits, we recommend you read above.

Overall the league has done a great job and there’s nothing that we can recommend on top of what they already mandate or strongly recommend. For those parents who have children in the AYSA leagues, you can feel safe knowing that your child’s dental safety is well protected.

Football – North Atlanta Football League

The North Atlanta Football League has tackle and flag football. They have a section of the website just for safety that parents can read through.

Flag Football

Flag football is available for K – 5th graders and the equipment provided for players are:

  • Soft shell helmet
  • Game Socks
  • Game Uniforms
  • Mouth Guard

Helmet and Mouth Guard

It’s impressive to see that the league provides soft shell helmets for its flag football players. Many flag football leagues don’t have any rules about helmets, but NAFL did a great job considering the safety of their player’s heads.

Also, mouth guards are provided to the players as well, so everything when it comes to dental safety looks like it is taken care of. So whether players accidentally get an elbow or ball to the face, the mouthguard and mask should do a great job protecting the player’s mouths.

The league didn’t have a document for rules, but they did list all the equipment provided. The supplies seem to check off the protection needs for the kids and overall it looks like there isn’t really anything extra that you will need to provide.

Tackle Football

NAFL offers tackle football for the following age groups:

2nd Grade
3rd Grade
4th Grade
5th Grade

The equipment provided for the tackle football players include Helmet, shoulder pads, game socks and game uniforms. We didn’t see anything about mouthguards. All the pictures and videos have players wearing mouthguards, so it may be something that players need to provide themselves.

With tackle football, most leagues already do a thorough job ensuring the safety of the kids. The helmet and pads offer the kids a pretty complete set of protection for the game.

Soccer – Alpharetta Ambush Soccer Club

The official website of Alpharetta states that Youth Soccer is held by the Alpharetta Parks and Recreation department.

However, at this time the Parks and Recreation does not have any information about Soccer and we couldn’t find any information.

We did some looking around to see other options available for soccer and we did find some other programs and found the Alpharetta Ambush Soccer Club.

The leagues provided are:

Alpharetta U8 Jr. Academy (6 – 7 years old)

Alpharetta Ambush Academy (8 – 12 years old)

We couldn’t find any specific information about provided equipment or gear, but we did see that uniforms costs are $235 which include home and away, so we assume that there is no official equipment or gear provided.

Mouthguards

Mouthguards are not very popular in soccer as many players choose not to wear them. However, we do recommend that you wear a mouthguard when it comes to soccer. It is a contact sport that involves elbows and flying knees and legs.

The chance of contact is very high and one wrong kick can land in someone’s face. The mouthguard will help protect your teeth when any errant elbows or flying knees may hit you.

Like any other sport, communication is extremely important and mouthguards can make it a little more difficult to communicate, however by buying the right mouthguard and getting your child to start wearing mouthguards early, communication should not be affected.

Many professional players wear mouthguards at the highest level and are still able to perform and communicate at the highest level.

Soccer in America has developed a reputation that is seen almost as a casual sport that isn’t as athletically intensive as football or basketball. However, the sport is just as much as a contact sport as basketball. There is a lot of fighting and shoving to get to the right position.

It’s important to not overlook the sport’s risks of injury and to properly protect your child.

If your child needs orthodontic treatment and is highly involved with a contact sport, Invisalign is actually a great option for kids. We often think of this clear aligner system as an adult orthodontic treatment, but it’s perfect for young athletes. The trays can be taken out during games and practice to be replaced by mouthguards. For more information about how Invisalign works, our orthodontist friends at Showtime Smiles in McKinney have compiled a comprehensive guide to Invisalign for patients. Ask your orthodontist whether this is a good fit for your child – better safe than sorry!

Dr. Nanna Ariaban

Dr. Nanna Ariaban

Pediatric Dentist at Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry
Dr. Nanna Ariaban is a board certified pediatric dentist and owner of Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry located in Alpharetta GA. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Georgia Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Dental Association. Dr. Nanna provides highest quality pediatric dental care in Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek and Roswell, GA for infants, children, and teens. She was recently voted as America's top pediatric dentist for two years in a row.
Dr. Nanna Ariaban

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