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Sports Related Dental Injuries - Treatment of Sports Related Dental Injuries

Correcting the Damage

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Updated October 07, 2009

When you participate in a sport, especially contact sports, the risk of sports related dental injury is generally high. Dental injuries suffered by professional athletes are treated slightly differently than an average person with the same type of injury. Professional athletes, due to the higher risk of re-injury and further damage to the mouth, will usually wear removable dentures to replace missing teeth. Once they retire from their sporting career, more permanent restorations are treatment planned.
Common restorative procedures used to treat dental injuries resulting from contact sports play include, but are not limited to:

Partial dentures are made on a regular basis for players missing their front teeth, because of their convenience. During a game, any removable dentures are not worn on the ice to prevent additional injury to the player, and subsequent damage to the denture.

Dental bridges are used to replace missing teeth. Dental bridges are not removable from the mouth, are obtainable in two appointments, and are natural looking and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Dental implants are used as a means to permanently replace missing teeth. Assuming the player is a candidate for dental implants, they are placed after his hockey career has ended because the risk of potentially devastating bone fracture lingers due to how the implant fuses to the bone.

Dental crowns are used to restore teeth that have suffered considerable damage as the result of an injury. Teeth that have been root canalled because of an injury are also recommended to have a crown placed on the tooth to prevent possible fracture of the restored tooth.

Dental veneers are generally used as an aesthetic restoration for teeth that have been slightly fractured or have been root canalled due to an injury.

Mouthguard wear for players with any type of dental restoration is advised because of the risks associated with the possible re-injury of the teeth. In some cases, the damage to a dental restoration effects the surrounding teeth and bone, creating additional problems in the future.

Dental injuries sustained by those participating in contact sports do not always involve the teeth.

Craig Conroy, a center for the NHL team the Calgary Flames, shared with me his experience with a serious dental injury four years ago during the playoffs. "I was going in to get the puck; the puck got dumped in, the goalie came out to play it. He went to shoot the puck and his stick swung around and the butt end caught me right in the mouth. I ended up not losing any teeth but it broke my jaw. I wasn't eating for a while; it was pretty bad and of course I didn't have a mouthguard in so it made it even worse. I try to learn lessons and move forward from there, but still I don't always wear a mouthguard now even though I should, I don't always."
When equipment is not mandatory, perhaps the validity of its use is questioned. Even though he realizes the importance of the mouthguard, Conroy admits, "Sometimes I forget it, sometimes I don't feel like putting it in, some days I do. It is like anything its how you feel that day; you know I should do it every day and its not that big a deal but its just like wearing a half shield you probably should do that too and I don't. Then you see something happen and it wakes you up and you think I gotta be more careful." As the dentist that subsequently treated Conroys injury, Dr. Blair stresses that a jaw fracture is a considerably painful injury that requires months of rehabilitation and often causes problems with TMJ for years to come.

According to Dr. Bill Blair, dental injuries are a major problem for players, and in some cases, they are a problem for the parent of the player with the injury. He says, "From a pain stand point, and an economic stand point. It becomes an aesthetic problem, it becomes a financial problem, and it becomes a pain problem; they have to go through many many procedures to get this whole thing corrected."

Sources:

Shawn Watson Interview with Craig Conroy. March 31, 2009.

Shawn Watson Interview with Dr. Bill Blair. March 23, 2009.

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