WORD OF MOUTH Oral Health Advice

Q: My son wants to try out for his high school basketball team. How can I explain to him the importance of using a protective mouth appliance? Since I am a huge fan of both college and professional basketball, I am cheering him on to join the team. Being keenly aware of the physical intensity in heavy contact sports such as football, soccer, hockey, baseball, encouraging the use of an appliance is a responsible suggestion. He may be apprehensive about wearing it. He may be nervous that he will be made fun of. However, some of my friends even have an appliance that they wear to sleep.

A: First and foremost, your son should understand your concern and appreciate that you are being proactive when it comes to his wellbeing. Mouth guards or biteplates or night guards are wonderful devices. They have many benefits, including helping to protect against breakage of the teeth, lacerations of the tongue and concussions. All of these injuries can result in Emergency Room visits, which are frequently seen in these contact sports.

Sadly, most sports injuries are orofacial in nature, resulting in unnecessary damage to the mouth area. In most situations, injuries could have been avoided if mouth guards or biteplates were part of the required safety equipment given to each player.

Have your son talk to the coach about wearing a mouth guard. His slam-dunk idea could score points before even going on the court. As far as the appliance your friends wear at night, although the concept is similar, they may wear them for different reasons.

People who clench or grind their teeth may see uneven wear and tear on the top of their teeth. Teeth may become flat and shiny, or broken or chipped surfaces on the teeth may also be seen or felt.

TMJ, which I addressed in a previous article, can also result from clenching or grinding teeth at night. TMJ symptoms include headaches, earaches, neck discomfort and stiff, sore or limited movement of the muscles and ligaments of the jaw. Those who have TMJ should consider having an acrylic appliance constructed.

Q: What’s the talk I hear lately about removing wisdom teeth? Is it necessary?

A: The correct question is whether there is enough room in your jaw for the wisdom teeth, or third molars, to come in. Most people lack sufficient space because the teeth are buried, partially erupt or erupt on an angle. This causes pain and could compromise the second molars. Crowding of the teeth can also result in collecting food and bone loss.

The best time to remove the wisdom teeth is between the ages of 18 and 25. The bone will regenerate more easily during this stage of life, rather than later when regeneration materials would be needed to rebuild behind the second molars.

If your father is a big-boned man and your mom is a petite lady, you are more likely to inherit his big teeth and her small jaw. In this case, you would not have adequate spacing for 32 teeth. An oral surgeon would need to be consulted.

Dr. Kessler’s office is located in the Dadeland Medical Building, 7400 N. Kendall Drive, directly across the street from Dadeland Shopping Mall and he may be reached at 305-670-3800 or at <Lkgums@aol.com>.

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