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Mouthguards help kids save those smiles

You've seen kids use mouth protectors in contact sports like football and hockey - but for bicycling? In fact, bicycle accidents are one of the most common ways that kids get their teeth knocked out.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends plastic mouthguards during competitive sports and now says that mouth-guards should be used for other activities - like bike riding, in-line skating and skateboarding.Besides tooth loss, mouthguards protect against fractures, nerve damage and concussions that can result from impact to the chin or jaw. For $25 to $100, a dentist can custom-fit an apparatus that attaches to the upper teeth. Also recommended by the ADA as an alter-native are self-molding "boil-and-bite" guards, available at sporting-goods stores for around $3. But since the fit isn't as precise, they may not be as comfortable as custom-fit guards one and may also interfere with speech and breathing.

While your little daredevil may not need to wear one to ride her bike up the street, it's a good idea if she's just learning to ride.

"As with helmets, starting while they're young and less self-conscious is key. Also, speak to other parents to see if you can make wearing safety gear a norm in your child's peer group," recommends Dr. Howard Spivak.