ST. LOUIS, April 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Hall of Fame soccer star and mother of two, Mia Hamm is teaming up with the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) to spread the word that when it comes to protecting your child's smile on and off the playing field, expertise matters. Hamm joins the organization's "Play It Safe" campaign to promote mouth guard use among junior athletes to avoid injuries to the face, mouth and jaw that can occur during practice and game play of contact sports such as football, basketball, soccer, hockey, and lacrosse. She also is helping to spread the word about a new Free Consultation coupon offer that is now available through the AAO.
The damage caused by a ball, knee or elbow to the face can be devastating for a child – often resulting in serious injury and a lifetime of oral health issues. In fact, sports-related injuries are the leading cause of emergency room visits in 12- to 17-year-olds according to the Centers for Disease Control. That's why the experts at the AAO are turning to experts like Hamm to help make "Play It Safe" a mantra of youth sports.
"An orthodontist's goal is to help our patients achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. As an orthodontist, I see too many kids with sports injuries to the mouth that could have been prevented," said Lee W. Graber, D.D.S., M.S., M.S., Ph.D., president of the AAO. "Together with Mia, we are encouraging parents, coaches and young athletes to set a goal of protecting those smiles."
According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), children are at risk on the playing field while many coaches and parents stand by on sidelines. In a recent survey, the AAO discovered that 76 percent of parents said their biggest fear is that their child will get hurt while playing organized sports, yet only 33 percent reported that their children wear mouth guards during organized sports including football, basketball, soccer and lacrosse.
"Sports offer a great outlet for kids to learn, grow and dream," said Mia Hamm. "Together with the AAO, I want to help teach kids and parents that some obstacles to success, like preventable injuries, can be avoided by wearing the right gear every time."
As part of the AAO's "Play It Safe" sport safety campaign, Hamm will highlight the importance of kids' sport safety in April. Hamm will visit Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Glendale, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, to meet with students, discuss the importance of facial protection and distribute mouth guards.
Additionally, Hamm is starring in a new sport safety themed poster and Web site for the AAO designed to educate parents and coaches about the importance of sport safety and facial protection. Parents, kids and coaches can visit the American Association of Orthodontists' website at www.braces.org/miahamm for sport safety tips or to download a poster of the soccer legend.
The Importance of Expertise
The AAO also is currently offering a Free Consultation coupon to help consumers take the first step to achieving a healthy, beautiful smile by meeting with an expert, an orthodontist, at no cost.
"When it comes to playing soccer, years of training and practice elevated Mia Hamm from an athlete to an expert and a superstar," said Dr. Graber. "And when it comes to getting a healthy, beautiful smile, the two-to-three additional years of education beyond dental school plus a career long focus on orthodontic continuing education is what makes an orthodontist an expert in aligning teeth."
Through the end of May, consumers who are interested in meeting with an orthodontist for a free initial consultation for themselves or their child can visit the AAO's Web site at braces.org to download a Free Consultation coupon and find orthodontists near them. During the consultation, a participating orthodontist will help determine the best possible course of treatment needed to achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.
"Reaching your full potential requires hard work and help from others," said Hamm. "The guidance of experts helps pave the way to success both on and off the field."
More about Mouth Guards and Sport Safety
Mouth guards are one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Over-the-counter versions may cost as little as five dollars, although custom-fit mouth guards offer greater protection. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they may protect jaws. An orthodontist can recommend the best mouth guard for an athlete who wears braces.
Consistent use of other protective equipment is important, too. Mandated for many organized sports, helmets save lives and prevent head injuries. Face guards, devices made of plastic or metal that attach to baseball helmets, also help to prevent facial injuries. To help parents and coaches, the AAO has four quick tips for keeping kids safe during sport activities:
- Wear a mouth guard during contact sports.
- Wear a helmet.
- Wear protective eyewear.
- Wear a face shield to avoid scratched or bruised skin.
"All coaches should make mouth guards a part of their team's uniform," said Dr. Graber. "Mouth guards are affordable and necessary to help prevent injury. An orthodontist can recommend the best mouth guard for an athlete who wears braces or other orthodontic appliances."
In addition to a downloadable poster of Mia Hamm and the AAO's Free Consultation coupon, additional information and sport safety tips can be found on the American Association of Orthodontist's Web site at www.braces.org. To locate an orthodontist near you, visit "Find an Orthodontist" at www.braces.org, or ask your dentist for a referral.
About the American Association of Orthodontists
The AAO comprises 16,500 members in the United States, Canada and abroad. Founded in 1900, the AAO supports research and education leading to quality patient care and promotes increased public awareness of the need for and benefits of orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to correct improperly aligned teeth and jaws. They receive an additional two to three years of specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth. Only those with this formal education may call themselves "orthodontists," and only orthodontists are eligible for membership in the AAO.
Laura High, 314-552-6726
Pam Paladin, 314-993-1700, ext. 524
SOURCE American Association of Orthodontists