?Spittin? Chiclets? was a way of life for decades in the National Hockey League, where an inadvertent puck, stick, elbow or fist was likely to knock players teeth out, and in turn they would likely spit them on the ice.
But in the past decade, new advances in mouthguards have helped reduce the amount of violent mouth injuries that have plagued the game, and have saved countless players from the famous gap-toothed smile.
?In the last decade, it has gone from a fraction of the players wearing mouthguards to the majority of the players wearing mouthguards,? said Jeffrey Hoy, DDS, who has served as team dentist for the Los Angeles Kings since 1982.
?The game hasn?t gotten any less physical; if anything it?s gotten more physical, but the mouth injuries have been noticeably reduced.? Dr. Hoy fits players with a multi-laminate pressure mouthguard that is formed on a model of a player?s mouth. The polyvinyl acetate (PVAc) guards that Dr. Hoy recommends are flexible, yet strong enough to protect teeth against pucks moving at high speeds.
Since the mouthguard is molded in the form of a player?s mouth, it provides excellent protection tailored to each individuals needs. ?The biggest advantage is the protection of the front 4 teeth,? Dr. Hoy said in an interview with Dental Learning.?Those are the most prone to get injured without a mouthpiece. [The mouthguard] also prevents teeth from going through the tongue and the lips. I?ve seen shards of teeth get stuck in the lips. That has all been cut down.?
According to Dr. Hoy, mouthguards also can help reduce concussions that are caused by direct hits to the chin. ?On direct chin impact, a mouthguard will slow the jaw speed, which will in turn slow the collision down,? said Dr. Hoy. ?The jaw can?t close all the way, meaning the teeth can?t smack together. The mouthguard creates a rebound space where the teeth would connect.?
As emphasis on player safety increases, fans might even see mouthguards become mandatory, a far cry from the days when NHL players did not even wear helmets. This would be likely to happen if mouthguards can be proven to reduce the risk of concussions on all types of hits. The days of ?spittin? Chiclets? as commonplace in the league might be over sooner rather than later. ? by Jake Mason