In Toronto, the weather is getting warmer but all eyes are on our favourite winter sport: hockey. Although everyone in Toronto has their own loyalties, the big news is that this year, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the playoffs after an almost decade-long drought. As you may or may not know, as a team that hasn?t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, the Toronto team still has legions of devoted fans and manages to consistently pack the Air Canada Centre. In fact, the Leafs are the most profitable NHL team despite their losing streak. And frankly, it doesn?t look likely to be broken this year after an unfortunate match-up caused them to be playing Boston in the first round.
 
As with all sports, there is an inherent risk of injury with hockey. Participating in a contact sport, hockey players are no stranger to contact from opponents, hockey sticks, and pucks. While their bodies and heads are covered in equipment to protect from these blows, hockey players have historically worn little protection for their mouths. In fact, the frequency of dental injuries is so high that many NHL teams have employed at least one team dentist to manage the damage done on the ice. One of these dentists elaborated on the strain the NHL can put on the mouths of its players: ?The only thing that compares to the dental injuries we see in the NHL would be maybe car crashes.?
 
There aren?t many countries where the term ?spittin chiclets??referring to spitting teeth on the ice after they?re knocked out?is said with honour, but Canada is one of them. In fact, it was often the hallmark of a tough hockey player to have missing teeth. Still, the gap-toothed smile is losing favour, and players are looking for ways to restore their teeth. However, placing a permanent dental implant and crown in active hockey players is risky because even more damage could be done if the player is hit in the mouth again. But, if the player waits for a permanent replacement until their hockey career is over, the bone could have resorbed enough to make dental implant placement not ideal.
 
These days though, the development of realistic-looking temporary crowns and plastic abutments have allowed dentists to place the implant in the gum immediately following tooth loss. Because the plastic abutment is not as secure on implant anchor, it will knock off at the gum level should the player be hit in the mouth again. Because the implant will remain secure, however, the player has the option to place a more permanent restoration on the implant anchor after their professional career is complete.
 
As the gap-toothed smile becomes less popular, team dentists estimate that approximately half of the players in the league are wearing custom-fitted mouthguards, which have reduced the amount of mouth and teeth injuries sustained by players. There's also some speculation that mouthguards might lower the risk of concussion, which may ultimately lead them to become mandatory if the link is proven.
 
As one dentist said, ?It's not that Bobby Hull/Bobby Clarke era anymore.? And on that note, here's a picture of him below to judge for yourself.

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