It's not uncommon in contact sports for chipped and broken teeth to occur, especially in games such as Aussie rules football and rugby. Whilst gum shields may protect the teeth to a certain degree, they cannot always prevent impact cracks, yet they're still one of the best defences against this problem. Cracked teeth can present all sorts of issues, as it's easy for them to become infected with bacteria, leading to internal issues within the enamel itself. It's not unheard of for infection to then penetrate the blood stream and cause problems in other parts of the body, and so seeing a dentist or root canal specialist straight away is imperative.
If the inside of the tooth is broken or pulped due to long term infection, then you may have to have a undergo a root canal procedure. A specialist dentist known as an endodontist will complete the root canal by removing the bacterial build-up, which affects the root of the tooth, the part embedded into the gum and close to the blood vessels. Unfortunately anti-bacterial medication is ineffective if the tooth has reached this stage of infection, and so it's important to work with a qualified professional as soon as possible who will be able to save the tooth and cover it with a crown. The rest of the tooth and gum should then heal by itself.
Why an Endodontist?
Endodontics is one of 13 specialist dental fields as recognised by the Dental Board of Australia. It requires additional training beyond the dental practice and sees only a minority of dentists undertaking the training; it also gives an indication as to the complexity of completing a root canal.
How to Prevent Problems?
It's hard to prevent impact injuries; however, you can equip yourself with as much protection as possible. An Australian Dental Association (ADA) approved mouthguard will do just that, minimising the risk of teeth of grinding and knocking together, which is one of the major causes of chips and breakages. Custom mouthguards are preferable over the boil and bite ones, as they fit better and restrict your breathing a lot less. They do cost more and require a trip to a dentist to have a mould of the mouth taken, but they will provide the most amount of protection. Boil and bites still work reasonably well and are cheap; they should serve as replacements for custom mouthguards.
You should also maintain a good quality oral care routine to minimise the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth. It won't stop any infections outright but could help to delay them and give you more time to see a specialist.