In most professional sports, the role of the team doctor is pretty sweet: besides performing regular checkups and giving health lectures, you get to attend all the games and only go to work when there’s an emergency. Things are different for a team dentist in the NHL, as emergencies happen all too often, and you keep a dentist chair on hand to patch up player’s mouths. Hockey players don’t expect to finish a season, much less their career, with all their teeth intact. Their dentists all have tales to tell, each gorier than the last.
Or consider Game 4 of the 2010 Western Conference finals, when, after getting smashed in the mouth by a shot, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith spit out seven teeth like sunflower seeds on his way back to the bench. “It sounds gross and bad,” Keith says, “but it happens all the time to guys.”
During a game, an NHL team dentist’s main priorities are triage, improvisation and speed: Stop the bleeding, yank or file down any dangerous edges and numb the pain so the player can return to the ice as quickly as possible. Restorative oral surgery — things like root canals, crowns, bridges or removable teeth the players call “flippers” — is saved for the fully equipped dental office. So it was that Keith left a breadcrumb trail of bicuspids all the way to the Blackhawks’ training room, where at one point he counted seven needles in his mouth. He missed just six and a half minutes of the game and returned to the ice, mumbling instructions through numb chipmunk cheeks while setting up the game-tying goal. (Two and a half weeks later, Keith was drinking out of the Cup, presumably through a straw.)
“Gotta leaf it all on the eyesh,” he gummed to reporters after the Sharks game.
Read more stories about the dentists who care for hockey player’s teeth and the pros that suffer for their sport at ESPN. -via Metafilter
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