With school almost out and great weather ahead, summer is a time when most kids get out and play—whether it’s in the water, on a bicycle, or out on a sports field. Unfortunately, with many summer activities, there is a higher risk of facial injury. Many dentists see an increase in facial trauma that leads to tooth loss or other damage, simply due to the increase in outdoor and sports activities.

Here are a few of the most common summer activities that could put your teeth at risk, and suggestions for ways you can prevent injury this season.

Playing Contact Sports

Whether you prefer to take the field for a game of soccer, hit the courts for a quick game of basketball, or play baseball, softball, or football this season, contact sports can be dangerous. This is especially true in sports like baseball, softball, and soccer, where mouth guards and facemasks are not mandatory, or in pick-up games that you’re just playing for fun with friends, since you often don’t wear the same protective gear as you would when you’re playing in an official game or league.

The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that about 1 in 3 facial injuries are sports-related, but mouth guards prevent more than 200,000 injuries every year, so they should be a critical part of your sports uniform, even for casual games. This is especially true if you have braces or other orthodontic work, which can cause mouth cuts, jaw injuries, and other damage to your teeth.

You can buy stock mouth guards “off the shelf” that are standard sizes, although they provide limited protection because they are not customized specifically for you. A better option is the mouth-formed guards that you boil and bite to fit to your mouth, or a custom mouth protector that you get from your dentist. The latter is the best option because it is made specifically for your mouth, but it is also the most expensive option. In some cases, a custom-fit mouth guard from your dentist may be covered by dental insurance, so check with your provider to find out.

Activities on Wheels

There are plenty of fun ways to get out on a set of wheels during the summer—including skateboards, roller skates, rollerblades, bicycles, motorcycle, dirt bikes, and more. Unfortunately these activities also pose a risk for injuries that range from head trauma to broken bones, cuts and scrapes, and facial trauma, including broken or damaged teeth, missing teeth, and mouth cuts, to name a few.

If you’re planning an activity on wheels, use caution to avoid crashing. Try to stay away from busy roads or highways, always wear a helmet and other protective gear (including mouth guards), and for particularly dangerous activities such as motorcycles, BMX/bike stunts, mountain biking on technical trails, or dirt bikes, consider a helmet that includes a face guard.

Summer is a great time to be outside, and if you take proper precautions to protect your face, jaw, mouth, and teeth, you can have a lot of fun without the pain and suffering from facial trauma. Talk to your dentist today to find out the best way to protect yourself during your favorite summer activities.