Dental News

Dental specialists safeguard more than teeth

4/10/2001  April Is National Facial Protection Month

Spring, sports, safety, teeth, face, and dentistry. This can only mean it is time again for “April Is National Facial Protection Month.”

The month of April finds more and more people heading outside for exercise and sports. A potential side effect of these healthy activities is that this can also mean more and more people experiencing injuries, especially facial injuries. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) are sponsoring the month-long observance to promote facial protection and injury prevention.

These dental specialists are all too familiar with facial injuries. They see broken jaws, knocked out teeth, scarred faces, fractured noses and scores of other injuries that are preventable. Sports safety is the key. Just ask Dr. Dennis Hiller, an orthodontist in Conway, New Hampshire.

Hiller, a member of the AAO, was a driving force behind the 1996 New Hampshire requirement that all high school football, field hockey, soccer, basketball, ice hockey and lacrosse players wear mouth guards. “My office is across the street from a high school,” Hiller explained. “There were so many students coming to me with injuries. I knew I had to do something to help and our efforts really have made a difference. There are a lot less kids coming over here with injuries now.”

The basketball-playing, mouth guard-wearing orthodontist served on the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Sports Medicine Committee. He saw firsthand that mouth guards work. To convince school principals and athletic directors that mouth guards are a necessity, he gave presentations promoting mouth guard use. Knowing that opponents often purport mouth guards as a hindrance to speech, Hiller gave his talks wearing a custom mouth guard. “About a third of the way into a presentation, I’d ask if everyone could hear me,” Hiller demonstrated. “They always could and I’d say ‘Cool. I’m wearing one now!’”

Hockey is just one of the sports in which mouth guards save face. Dr. Everett Borghesani, a retired oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS), served as the Philadelphia Flyers’ OMS for 30 years. He joined the team in their first season in 1966. Through his efforts, all team members were wearing custom fitted mouth guards in 1967. “We’re the best protected sport today. Nowadays players always wear mouth guards, during practice too,” said the Devon, Pennsylvania resident. He added, “Players are actually keeping their teeth now!”

Borghesani also notes an increase in the number of players wearing face shields. Players who have sustained injuries are especially apt to wear them he says. He sees younger players being conditioned to caring about facial protection. “That’s where it has to start, with the youth.”

Change may also have to start with the coaches, according to Dr. Brad Smith. Smith, who holds a DDS and MS degree, is a member of the AAPD and practices in Denver, Colorado. “It should be required that kids playing basketball wear mouth guards. We’re still seeing a lot of facial and oral trauma in this sport. We need to make the coaches understand so that the kids will take heed.”

The doctor recalled the son of one of his employees whose tooth was knocked out during a high school basketball game (basketball is often considered a non-contact sport). The mother felt awful because her son could have been fitted for a custom mouth guard without charge. She, nor her son, had considered a mouth guard for basketball. No one else on the team used them. After the injury, he was the first to wear one.

Other sports and outdoor activities have seen a rise in the use of protective equipment: bicycling, downhill skiing, in-line skating, wrestling, skateboarding, baseball, motor cycling, and more. With the arrival of spring and people heading outdoors, the AAO, the AAOMS, and the AAPD encourage increased attention to facial protection. Injury prevention saves money as well as faces.

Money spent on a single knocked out tooth can exceed the cost of a professional grade mouth guard by 20 times. Annually, children under the age of 14, playing 29 different sports, have injuries that cost Americans about 49 million dollars. An ounce of prevention still goes a long way.

“April Is National Facial Protection Month” is listed in Health Observances & Recognition Days 2001 Calendar. The calendar is published by the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development of the American Hospital Association. The American Dental Association recognizes oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, and pediatric dentistry as specialty areas of dental practice.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are facial trauma experts and leaders in hospital ER trauma care. In addition to holding dental degrees, OMSs complete four or more years of postdoctoral in-hospital surgical residency training, which includes intensive training in cosmetic surgery and reconstruction for injuries to the mouth, face, and jaw.

Orthodontists are specialists in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists must complete college requirements before starting a three-to-five year graduate program at a dental school accredited by the ADA. After dental school, at least two or three academic years of advanced specialty education in an ADA-accredited orthodontic program are required to be an orthodontist.

Pediatric dentists are specialists dedicated to the oral health of children and patients with special health care needs. Pediatric dentists complete two to three years of additional specialized training (after the required four years of dental school) which includes study in child psychology, growth, and development. Their specialization allows them to provide the most up-to-date thorough treatment for a wide variety of children’s dental problems. They are also trained and qualified to care for patients with medical, physical, or mental disabilities.

For more information about facial protection, the sponsoring dental specialties, or free literature on facial injuries and sports safety, contact the AAOMS at 847 678 6200. You may also visit the associations’ websites at and

SOURCE: American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons