Tooth loss is unfortunately common in many different sports such as basketball, football, and of course hockey. For example if I asked you to picture a hockey player I could probably guess what popped up in your mind: a big Canadian with a mullet and at least a few missing teeth. Was I wrong? I know that is what I see when I picture a hockey player. Part of me admires their love for the sport which transcends pain and missing teeth, but another part (the dentist part) recoils a bit at the lax regulations in the NHL. It is worth mentioning though, that safety rules have come a long way. In the past, helmets and mouthguards were not required!
“I’ve pulled teeth out of mouth guards”
This quote from Detroit Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer paints a rather troubling picture, “I’ve pulled teeth out of mouth guards they’re not designed to keep the teeth in the mouth.” Mouthguards have been proven to offer protection from oral trauma in full contact sports, but the violent nature of hockey (as with other sports like rugby) still lead to missing teeth. Some have called for facial cages which can protect players’ faces from situations like getting high sticked or checked into a wall. Facial cages would not only protect players’ teeth, but would also go a long way to prevent facial trauma and concussions. With that being said, there is a number of NHL veterans that oppose facial cages, citing the historically lax rules and a potential decrease in offensive play due to some obstruction in their field of vision.
In Support of Facial Cages
In my opinion it is always preferable to try to preserve your natural teeth instead of simply replacing them. While dental implants have come a long way, the procedure can be expensive and the healing process, while straightforward, can take months. I think it is great that the NHL has dentists on staff to look after their players teeth, but there should be steps taken to prevent tooth loss in the first place. I realize that for many people part of the draw of hockey is it’s violent and primal nature, but oral trauma is not something that should be taken lightly. Afterall, another similarly offensive sport, football, has taken the leap to require full face cages years ago and while tooth loss is not unheard of in football it is certainly not as commonplace as in hockey.
Consider a Good Mouthguard
Unfortunately, the NHL does not even require mouthguards, but most other sports do. Dr. Matthews offers fantastic mouthguards for athletes that are created with neuromuscular dentistry in mind. A misaligned bite can throw your game off and athletes who have made the switch to neuromuscular mouthguards have noticed an improvement in their strength, speed, endurance, and agility among others. If you live in the Austin area and are interested in protecting your oral health and improving your game give our team at Dan Matthews, DDS a call at (512) 520-0606.