Superstitions Are The Source Of NHL's Tooth Woes

Dec. 12, 2001
Players often forgo mouthguards from fear of breaking a winning streak.

Superstitious rituals are one of the main reasons why National Hockey League (NHL) team dentists travel with the team during the playoff season, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

Professional hockey players strive for consistency, and when there is a change in a routine game habit, including a visit to the opposing team's dentist to treat a traumatic dental injury, the athletes often feel it negatively affects playing ability, explains Joseph L. Perno, DDS, FAGD, president of the Academy of General Dentistry and team dentist for the NHL Philadelphia Flyers and farm-league Philadelphia Phantoms.

"Many players feel that starting to wear a mouthguard can break their consistent game pattern," says Dr. Perno. Although wearing protection decreases dental injuries acquired from pucks, high-sticking, cross-checking and slashing, some superstitious anti-mouthguard players embrace wearing a mouthguard only after being treated for a traumatic mouth injury, explains Dr. Perno.

Even though a typical NHL player's mouth experiences more dental trauma than the average person, Dr. Perno has seen a decrease in the Flyers dental injuries compared to 20 years ago due to the use of mouthguards and mouthguard awareness programs.

Dr. Perno has worked with the Flyer's trainer to help raise the level of awareness among Flyers players, and to help them realize that the hockey puck, a 6-ounce piece of inch-thick rubber, can reach 120 mph and hit their teeth with an impact force of 1,250 lb. "We are finally beginning to influence some players to hang up their mouthguard superstitions."