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Dental treatment for Hockey players The big question concerning traumatic dental sports injuries, especially with the professional hockey player, has been, “At what point do you definitively treat the injury?” notes Russell Baer, DDS. Baer, who along with his partner, Martin Marcus, DDS, is a team dentist for the Chicago Blackhawks, notes that the injuries are inevitable—whether they occur in practice, during games, or for any one of a variety of reasons. Typically, treatment for the professional hockey player had been a temporary type of flipper or partial that could be removed for the game, thus helping to reduce the risk of more trauma to any definitive treatment, he recalls.
“These players often were left with what we considered un-ideal dentistry,” Baer admits. “Now, we’re talking about players earning million-dollar salaries, so type of treatment wasn’t a financial issue.”
However, as ESPN and other interview opportunities began to present themselves, players didn’t like having removable prostheses or something ‘un-permanent’ in their mouths that would detract from their on-camera appearance, Baer says. As a result, these days he and his partner at least try to place an implant as soon as possible after a player’s tooth is knocked out. The implant then is restored immediately with either a temporary or permanent crown held in place by a plastic abutment (Nobel Biocare, http://www.nobelbiocare.com).
“One of the reasons we wouldn’t place implants in players before was their risk of getting hit again, which could lead to the entire implant being avulsed along with the bone, causing more damage,” Baer explains. “However, the problem with waiting and putting the player in a removable is that natural bone resorption would prevent definitive treatment down the line after the player had completed their professional career.”
The dilemma was finding a way to maintain the bone without putting the players at risk for more damage if the implant was hit, Baer continues. By developing this type of “break away” abutment, at least the implant can be placed to help maintain the player’s bone over time, and it can be restored with temporary or semi-permanent teeth, he says.
“By using a plastic abutment, if the player does get hit again, the implant remains stable in the bone, but the plastic will shear at the gum level,” Baer explains. “It’s then a simple procedure to re-do the crown, and you’re not putting the player at risk.”
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