With the Tampa Bay Lightning currently winning in their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the New York Islanders, it’s hard for us at Sedaros Oral Surgery not to get excited even though we’re far away from the action here in Melbourne. We hope that the home team advances to the next round, and that they do so without any facial trauma. Whenever we watch hockey here we’re reminded of how often athletic injuries affect the face and jaw. It makes us so happy to see the players pop in and out their mouthguards because we know they are protecting themselves from serious injury.

Hockey players are notorious for missing teeth. Thick rubber pucks racing across the ice, the allowance of on-ice brawls, and sticks that that can fly up and hook players in the mouth, make the sport one of the most dangerous as far as facial trauma goes. Even though players are required to wear helmets and mouthguards, injuries do persist. Facial injuries from contact spots make up eight percent of facial trauma, and up to 40 percent of sports injuries involve the face. We always see athletes in need of treatment for an injury sustained on the court, ice, or field.

Sports injuries being treated by dental professionals is, oddly, a budding practice. Oral surgeons have extensive knowledge of the oral maxilliofacial muscles, bones, and tissues, it is no small wonder why we treat so many of these types of injuries. However, it is not just full contact sports like hockey, football, and rugby that create the most oral and facial injuries. In fact biking injuries account for the most sports-related facial traumas. Followed closely by basketball, playground activities, and soccer, all sports in which contact is prohibited. This is possibly because athletes who play contact sports are aware they may be injured and are compelled to wear protective gear such as helmets, facemasks and mouthguards, whereas athletes who play non-contact sports may assume they will not be injured and easily forget, or neglect, to use protective gear.

Common Injuries

The most commonly sustained sports injuries are to the “T-zone” bones of the face. That is the nose, the zygoma, and the mandible. They often occur together and can be quite severe. Fractures of any of these bones can facilitate tooth loss, and the need for reconstructive surgery for the sinus, and jaw itself. Restoring function to these extremely important bones is one of the the most important thing we do as oral surgeons at Sedaros Oral Surgery.

When the bones of the face are broken, complications can be felt throughout the entire body. A facial injury can inhibit an athlete’s ability to eat, speak, breath, and function properly. It may take the skilled hand of a oral surgeon to piece bones back together so the sensitive tissues of the face and jaw are able to function at optimal level.

Preventing Facial Trauma

The best way to prevent sports-related facial trauma is to wear the properly fitted equipment designed for each sport. Helmets and facemasks can prevent wayward objects from making initial contact with the face, but the most important piece of equipment an athlete can wear is a mouthguard. There are many types of mouthguards on the market from stock formed to mouth formed choices; however, the most effective type of mouthguard you can choose is one that is custom fitted to you by your dentist or oral surgeon. The reason being that custom-fit mouthguards are more comfortable to wear so they are worn.They are also made out of dentist-approved materials and are designed protect your teeth and prevent injury. Mouthguards are so imperative to oral health that the ADA estimates that they prevent more than 200,000 orofacial injuries in football alone every year.

Mouthguards have proven to prevent injuries to the teeth, tongue, lips, and cheeks. They also reduce the severity of any injuries that occur to the jaw, neck and head. This includes jaw fractures and concussions by cushioning any blows that may occur. In the case of our Tampa Bay Lightning, they could come from pucks, elbows, or sticks.

While we cheer on our home team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we are extremely happy to know that professional sports leagues everywhere take care to make sure their athletes are being safe by wearing mouthguards. We’re even more happy to see our athletic patients getting custom-fit mouthguards to prevent orofacial injury. If you play any sports, contact or not, make sure that you have a mouthguard to prevent the severe injuries that can result.  And, Go Bolts!