Although it may be more appealing (and mouth-watering) to talk about National Donut Month or National Ice Cream Month, April marks another area where awareness is important. It's National Facial Protection Awareness Month.

Woo-hoo! OK, maybe not woo-hoo, but facial protection is a topic worth looking at — especially if you're a dentist or an orthodontist.

Five of the nation's top dental associations, including the American Dental Association, want to remind athletes (young and old) to play it safe by wearing a mouth guard during recreational and competitive sports. Research estimates that about 2 percent of all children or adolescents who participate in sports will eventually suffer a facial injury severe enough to require medical attention.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's Policy on Prevention of Sports-related Oculofacial Injuries, sports accidents account for 10 to 39 percent of all dental injuries in children. Most often, these injuries are caused by direct hits to the mouth with a hard object, such as baseball or a hockey puck, and player-to-player contact.

A properly fitting mouth guard could prevent many of the above-mentioned injuries. A mouth guard should be an essential piece of any athlete's protective equipment equally as important as, um, the jock strap and cup.

Here’s why: Mouth guards protect teeth from being knocked out, broken and/or displaced. Additionally, mouth guards prevent injuries to the bone and tissues around the teeth. They also help prevent injuries to the lower jaw (mandible).

As a dental professional, you've likely seen (and treated) the results of an ill-timed elbow to the teeth or baseball to the jaw. The results can be painful and expensive for your patients, especially if there is tooth loss involved.

With the introduction of National Facial Protection Awareness Month, April is the ideal time for you to remind your patients and their parents, if you see pediatric patients that a good quality mouth guard is a great investment.

Let your patients know that most dentists and other dental specialists can make customized mouth guards that hold teeth in place while still allowing for normal speech and breathing. Let them know their athlete's performance will, in no way, be jeopardized. But their teeth will be protected.

National Facial Protection Month is sponsored annually each April by the Academy for Sports Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry , American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists and the American Dental Association.