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Dear Patient: Lessons about teeth from the Super Bowl

Feb. 15, 2024
This year's Super Bowl provided plenty of unusual fodder for dental social media pages. Amanda Hill discusses lessons about teeth from the big game.

This year’s Super Bowl ended with an overtime win for the Kansas City Chiefs. Whether you tuned in for the football, the commercials, Taylor Swift, or just showed up for the junk food, there are some excellent dental conversations to be had based on the game. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a couch potato, prioritizing your oral health can impact your chances of winning your next “game.”

That grill got everyone talking

Before the game even started, dental social media groups were fired up with comments about singer Post Malone’s grill. As he sang America the Beautiful, we got a close-up view of it. While it was a beautiful rendition of a patriotic song, his gingiva was anything but beautiful, and the titanium-covered teeth were shocking.

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Screen grabs were quickly posted as we analyzed his dental health, questioned his dentist, and promptly googled for more close-ups. It turns out celebrity dentist Dr. Thomas Connelly, the “Father of Diamond Dentistry,” has been working with the star since 2021. In a New York Times article, Dr. Connelly reports, “Posty needed me: he had terrible teeth.” I’d argue he still needs his dental hygienist and probably a water flosser. Full mouth grills, or even individual crowns, can trap plaque and bacteria at the margin. This can cause cavities or even gum disease if they aren’t thoroughly cleaned. 

Athletic mouthguards

As the game heated up, so did the players' nerves. Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, could be seen chewing on what looked like a clear aligner mouthpiece. The social media groups fired up again, questioning why he wore such a flimsy athletic mouthguard. Concerned dental professionals discussed the need for a more protective material in such a physical sport. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends wearing a properly fitted mouthguard to reduce injury. They go on to say that “mouthguards should have adequate retention to provide a resilient, protective surface on the dental arch that is considered to be at highest risk of injury (typically the top teeth), and to protect the soft tissue from injuries to the lips and cheeks.”

While designed to fit your teeth closely, orthodontic aligners aren’t thick enough to offer the protection needed to keep the teeth and tissues safe. Someone should tell Mahomes that he isn’t going to be successful with his orthodontic treatment if he keeps chewing on his trays! And to swap out for an athletic mouthguard while playing football to protect his smile.

The blue tent

Speaking of protection, there is a risk of injury in any sport. Football is definitely one of those. (Does anyone else remember seeing Joe Theisman break his leg?) This year, the “blue tent” popped up on the sidelines a few times so trainers could evaluate players privately. While I love the idea of players getting quick care without all of us watching, I can’t help but think about the importance of pre-optimizing their bodies to prevent and heal from injury.

While all the practice time and training they put in gets them to their elite NFL status, can you imagine getting benched for a dental abscess? Or having untreated periodontal disease slow the healing time post-injury. This is a lesson we all can learn from. The health of your mouth directly affects your ability or inability to heal from injury or illness.