Posts for: January, 2020
While sports like football, basketball and soccer have exploded in popularity over the last few decades, many Americans still have a soft spot for the granddaddy of them all: baseball. While technology has changed many aspects of the game, many of its endearing traditions live on.
Unfortunately, one baseball tradition isn’t so endearing and definitely hazardous to health—tobacco, primarily the smokeless variety. Players and coaches alike, even down to the high school level, have promoted or at least tolerated its use.
But there are signs this particular baseball tradition is losing steam. Not long ago, the San Francisco Giants became the first major league baseball team to prohibit tobacco in its home stadium—on the field as well as in the stands. The move was largely in response to a law passed by the City of San Francisco, but it does illustrate a growing trend to discourage tobacco use in baseball.
While smoking, chewing or dipping tobacco can certainly impact a person’s overall health, it can be especially damaging to the teeth, gums and mouth. Our top oral health concern with tobacco is cancer: Research has shown some correlation between tobacco use (especially smokeless) and a higher risk of oral cancer.
You need look no further than the highest ranks of baseball itself to notice a link between tobacco and oral cancer. Although from different eras, Babe Ruth and Tony Gwynn, both avid tobacco users, died from oral cancer. Other players like pitcher Curt Schilling have been diagnosed and treated for oral cancer.
Cancer isn’t the only threat tobacco poses to oral health. The nicotine in tobacco can constrict blood vessels in the mouth; this in turn reduces the normal flow of nutrients and disease-fighting immune cells to the teeth and gums. As a result, tobacco users are much more susceptible to contracting tooth decay and gum disease than non-users, and heal more slowly after treatment.
That’s why it’s important, especially in youth baseball, to discourage tobacco use on the field. While most of baseball’s traditions are worthy of preservation, the chapter on tobacco needs to close.
Super Bowl LIV is set for February 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, where the top two teams in pro football will vie for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. Unfortunately, many of their fellow competitors (and some of their teammates) will still be nursing injuries from a long, grueling season. Injuries are a fact of life for one of America's most popular sports, with every part of a player's body vulnerable to trauma—including their teeth, gums and jaws.
But although they do occur, dental and oral injuries aren't at the top of the list of most frequent injuries in the NFL. That's because of the athletic mouthguard, an oral appliance small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. Made of pliable plastic, a mouthguard helps absorb damaging forces to the face and mouth generated by the inevitable hits that players take in the course of a game. According to the American Dental Association, a player is 60% more likely to incur a dental injury when not wearing a mouthguard.
And they're not just for the pros: Mouthguards are regarded as an essential part of protective gear for all participants of organized football and other contact sports. They're the best defense against injuries like fractured (cracked) teeth or tooth roots, knocked out teeth or teeth driven back into the jaw (tooth intrusion).
Mouthguards are readily available in sporting goods stores, but the best type of mouthguards are those that are custom-made by dentists for the individual player, created from impressions taken of that individual's teeth. Because custom mouthguards are more accurate, they tend to be less bulky than “boil and bite” mouthguards, and thus provide a better and more comfortable fit. And because of this superior fit, they offer better protection than their retail counterparts.
Because they're custom-made, they tend to be more expensive than other types of mouthguards. And younger athletes whose jaws are still developing may need a new mouthguard every few years to reflect changes in jaw growth. Even so, the expense of a custom mouthguard pales in comparison with the potential expense of treating an impact injury to the teeth or mouth.
If you or a member of your family are avid participants in football, basketball, hockey or similar high-contact sports, a mouthguard is a must. And just like the pros, a custom mouthguard is the best way to go to for comfort and ultimate protection.
If you would like more information about oral sports protection, please contact us or schedule an appointment. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”
The ongoing opioid addiction epidemic has brought together government, law enforcement and healthcare to find solutions. The focus among doctors and dentists has been on finding ways to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.
Opioids (or narcotics) have been a prominent part of pain management in healthcare for decades. Drugs like morphine, oxycodone or fentanyl can relieve moderate to extreme pain and make recovery after illness or procedures much easier. Providers like doctors and dentists have relied heavily on them, writing nearly 260 million narcotic prescriptions a year as late as 2012.
But although effective when used properly, narcotics are also addictive. While the bulk of overall drug addiction stems from illegal narcotics like heroin, prescription drugs also account for much of the problem: In 2015, for example, 2 million Americans had an addiction that began with an opioid prescription.
The current crisis has led to horrific consequences as annual overdose deaths now surpass the peak year of highway accident deaths (just over 54,000 in 1972). This has led to a concerted effort by doctors and dentists to develop other approaches to pain management without narcotics.
One that’s gained recent momentum in dentistry involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin work by dilating blood vessels, which reduces painful inflammation. They’re available over the counter, although stronger doses require a prescription.
NSAIDs are effective for mild to moderate pain, but without the addictive properties of narcotics. There are some adverse health consequences if taken long-term, but limited use for pain or during post-procedure recovery is safe.
Many dentists are recommending NSAIDs for first-line pain management after most dental procedures. Narcotics may still be prescribed, but in a limited and controlled fashion. As part of this new approach, dentists typically combine ibuprofen and acetaminophen: Studies have shown the two work together better at reducing pain than either one individually.
Still, many aren’t eager to move away from the proven effectiveness of narcotics to primarily NSAIDs. But as these non-addictive drugs continue to prove their effectiveness, there’s hope the use of addictive opioids will continue to decrease.