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A Tale of Toothless Leagues: NFL v. NHL Edition
July 18, 2017  |  Dental Health

A Tale of Toothless Leagues: NFL v. NHL Edition

Nothing beats watching your favorite football team win The Super Bowl, or rooting for your beloved hockey team to win the Stanley Cup. The path to sports glory is not an easy one.

Each team is faced with challenges, losses and even injuries. NFL players are prone to concussions, pulled muscles, broken bones as well as tooth loss. NHL players suffer from similar injuries including ankle sprains, concussions and also missing teeth.

According to Forbes, both football and hockey are listed among the most dangerous sports due to serious risk of spinal and head injuries. In the United States alone, a staggering five million teeth fall victim to sports related injuries every year.

According to The New York State Dental Journal, athletes have a ten percent likelihood of getting injured in the face, jaw area included.

So many teeth have been sacrificed on the football fields and ice rinks of each of those esteemed leagues. Teeth that were probably stolen by the tooth fairy. So which league has the highest record of dental losses?

Touchdowns and Tooth Losses on the Football Field

Many players had their teeth knocked out on the field, including Hall of Fame legend Bob St. Clair. The 49ers lineman who was nicknamed The Geek by his fellow teammates lost five of his teeth when Norm Van Brocklin’s foot collided with his mouth. St. Clair remarkably moved to the sideline, pushed cotton into his mouth before returning to the field and finishing the game.

Newly drafted Detroit Lions quarterback  Brad Kaaya once had one of his molars knocked out of his mouth when he received a direct hit to the head. He later gave that tooth to his trainer and returned to the game as well.

These days, most teams are accompanied by their very own dentist. In terms of numbers, medical costs revolving around football related injuries have reached over seventeen million dollars.

NHL and the Case of Missing Chiclets

Hockey and missing teeth have been strongly linked for decades. Players like former Buffalo Sabres  defenceman Aleksei Zhitnik was struck in the mouth by a hockey stick, causing three or four of his teeth to fall out. He was reported to have thrown his teeth on the ice and skating away like it was nothing.

San Jose Sharks defenceman Brent Burns has three missing teeth while Chicago Blackhawks player Duncan Keith lost seven of his teeth when a puck collided with his face at a game back in 2011. Former Kings coach Darryl Sutter was witness to players putting their teeth in cups before a game and labeling them with their names.

Retired New Jersey Devils player Ken Daneyko was famous for his missing front teeth after getting hit by a puck. Other players include Bobby Clarke, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. Dental damage was so common, to the point where players started referring to this damage as ‘spitting chiclets’.

Nowadays, teams such as The Los Angeles Kings and The Nashville Predators have their own dentists on standby in case of dental injuries. They are also blessed with dental coverage which covers the cost of dentures and dental implants.

At the end of the day, both NFL and NHL league players are at risk of losing their teeth, especially those who fail to wear protective mouth guards.

These guards are designed to prevent tooth loss,  damage and shield the body from concussions and neck injuries. Losing a tooth might be a milestone in the life of a pro-athlete, but nothing really compares to a winning smile with a compete set of pearly whites.

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