I Still Don't Recommend People Blocking Shots With Their Teeth
November 7, 2019 8:04 PM   Subscribe

The ugly, gory, bloody secret life of NHL dentists (ESPN.com)...While tooth enamel might be the hardest biological substance on earth, it's no match for the sport of hockey. With pucks, sticks and fists flying in all directions at players who famously refuse all means of protection, tooth trauma and trips to the dentist -- most people's worst nightmare -- are as inherent to hockey as ice. The relentless assault on such a specific body part, especially one as socially and aesthetically important as teeth, has transformed NHL dentists into the unsung heroes of the sports world. [CONTENT WARNING: Lots of descriptive injury language and toothless athletes. Might want to skip if mouth stuff makes you queasy...]
posted by JoeZydeco (21 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
That was interesting and satisfyingly complete. Thanks.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:24 PM on November 7

I expect that most Canadian dentists have quite a few "hockey puck damage" stories to tell. When he was 20, my nephew had four of his teeth smashed in a pickup hockey game. He remained on the ice, spitting out bits of teeth, until the game was finished. He even scored a goal. His father -- my oldest brother -- has a fake front tooth because he took a puck in the face in his early twenties. And that's just one Canadian family.
posted by orange swan at 9:11 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]

I've had stress dreams where all my teeth fell out, but they've never involved hockey. So, thanks, I guess?
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? at 9:20 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]

That last story was touching. Amazingly skilled artists at all levels in Eastern Europe.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:24 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]

In the San Jose Sharks first season, their (non-hockey-aware) dentist thought the team doctor would be busy. The dentist was averaging an incident per game, or more.

Sharks — and their teeth — are fortunate to have Mr. Fix-it handy
posted by blob at 10:19 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: And that's just one Canadian family.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:03 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]

posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 4:55 AM on November 8

My uncle who played in the OHL and IHL used to take his front teeth (dental bridge) as a "magic trick" when I was a kid :P
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:08 AM on November 8

I think that popping the top denture plate was a favorite trick of oldsters all over the place; I recall reading that the librarian ghost in the beginning of Ghostbusters was based on a great-aunt of Dan Aykroyd's who did that trick.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:31 AM on November 8

Growing up, the dentists that I saw were the team dentists for the Rangers, so it wasn't uncommon to see either players or their families in the waiting room there. And after the Rangers won the Cup in the 90s, they made sure to add a framed print of Lord Stanley's Mug from a team event to the office decor.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:16 AM on November 8

A few years back, I was running and tripped and face planted. Broke off one of my front two teeth. Here you go. Because of the swelling, they had to wait a few weeks to do a root canal and then the replacement tooth. It was 2.5 months of looking and feeling like a hockey player who took one in the face.

I just had a tooth pulled due to a cavity eating into the root & nerve. I'm not clicking that. I very much dislike the dentist and all of its industry. I begrudgingly go for my visits. Ugh.
posted by Fizz at 7:16 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]

You can often tell when a hockey player retires because all of a sudden his facial scars diminish and his teeth get way more asethetically pleasing.

I have a broken tooth from getting kicked in the face (accidentally) with a skate, but it was a figure skate. I *am* Canadian though.
posted by biscotti at 10:05 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]

In order to complete dental school, we were required, quite naturally, to have patients who needed dental work. Fortunately for me, I landed a case that in one swoop gave me many of the required credits for graduation. It was a gentleman who had been a hockey coach. One day many years before, he had been standing at the bench, and along came a puck that relieved him of nine of his teeth. For years he had worn a removable plate, and now he wanted fixed bridges and a better smile.

He was a great guy, patient with the time it takes to have work done in a dental school setting, and so happy with the work that he offered me use of his beach house the following summer. It's been 30 years but I still fondly remember him and the hours we spent together making his smile perfectly to his liking. Dentistry is very rewarding that way.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:08 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]

I used to work at a now-defunct bar (valiantly trying to be a gastropub, in reality closer to a sports bar) in Philadelphia's Old City (a pretty douchey neighborhood, nightlife-wise). For the first several months working there, I was frequently perplexed by a strange phenomenon, which was that we had some repeat customers, young men, who would come in together, who seemed to be extremely fit and healthy, who tipped pretty well and didn't seem broke or impecunious or in any way down-and-out, who had largely terrible taste in beer (as an aspiring gastropub, we did have a decent craft beer selection on tap, but these young men consistently asked for e.g., Michelolob Ultra) for which the bartenders did not mock them (they mocked everyone else ordering the swill) - these young healthy men were also, to a man, missing teeth. Not just any teeth either - front teeth, marquee teeth, important teeth.

Now, usually when you see someone missing a tooth or several, they are either very young, very old, or in between but otherwise showing indications of having experienced great hardship. These men did not fit any of those descriptions; the incongruity baffled me.

I was at that time very ignorant about sports (I still am). One day I was polishing silverware or making roll-ups and the men were at their table drinking Bud Light and eating buffalo wings through the gaps in their teeth, and I remarked to my coworker, "What's up with these dudes? Is there a convention* in town for the dentist-averse?"

My coworker looked at me with incredulity and surprise and informed me as to the identify of the young men, which was apparently obvious to everyone but me. Reader, they were the Flyers.

*the bar was near enough to the Philly convention center that we did, in fact, get some convention traffic from time to time.
posted by Aubergine at 10:13 AM on November 8 [8 favorites]

The slow-motion replays of Sidney Crosby taking a puck to the jaw were even harder to watch than Joe Theisman's leg. As a life-long hockey fan recovering from severe dentist phobia, I am very aware of how these two things intersect but cannot Read More About It.

I'm just glad that the players wear helmets now. You used to be able to tell the older players because they were grandfathered in and didn't have to wear them.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:18 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]

There's an amusing video somewhere where Crosby is interviewed shortly after that incident, still missing teeth and obviously quite a bit high from painkillers.
posted by tavella at 10:44 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]

Here's an older article on NHL team dentists that cover some of the same things - I thought this article was one I had read on Metafilter, but doesn't look to be so.

posted by evilangela at 4:49 PM on November 8

Welp, I'm a Canadian, former hockey player, with extensive dental work done over the years. Fun fact is apparently I have a genetic condition in that most pain killers don't work on me. For root canals or extensive dental work, I let the dentist or oral surgeon give me the usual shots and stuff. It makes them feel better. But any relief is gone in seconds. I had to train myself to not move while in the dentist's chair. A couple years ago My family doctor heard from me about this, after a surgery. She had read about this so now my medical chart has a note about the one or two drugs I have found to work on me. This might be a relevant article: https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/pharmacological/opioids/non-responsive-pain-patients-cyp-2d6-defect
posted by baegucb at 5:42 PM on November 8

You used to be able to tell the older players because they were grandfathered in and didn't have to wear them.

Craig McTavish. Last NHL player without a helmet.

Similar story with visors now - there are about a dozen (?) NHL players who play without eye protection. The Canucks had two high profile eye injuries about a decade ago in Mattias Ohlund and Manny Malhotra. In the latter, it ended his career but nobody really publicly acknowledges it. Ohlund had a reported recovered "70%" function in his injured eye but iirc it hampered his ability and probably directly led to a couple/ few injuries that might have been avoided.

Mouthguards are not required (and in a lot of teeth-losing situations, wouldn't help that much; would require a full cage).

Even professional level male athletic straps/ cups/ armour aren't proof against injury; even with a modern one on in 2010, Sami Salo got a ruptured testicle after taking a puck in the region.

This is just within the singular Canucks organization. Achilles tendons galore, a bunch of skate-cut incidents (achilles involvement sometimes), and other just plain weird stuff.


Being a goalie, primarily, growing up playing street/ ball hockey against fellow kids - all kinds of weird stuff will happen if you play often enough even with adequate equipment.

Terry Sawchuk was a NHL goalie in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Link has a picture of him in '66.
posted by porpoise at 8:50 PM on November 8

*not to abuse the edit; the extant players playing without visors are not restricted to older players; there are a bunch who squeaked by the grandfather clause as young'uns, and some who sneaked by chose to change to not use visors after having used them in Juniors.

The kinds of players who do so - it's pretty much what you expect as to why and their demeanors about it.
posted by porpoise at 8:53 PM on November 8

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