can happen when “the puck stops here.” In addition
to seeing everyday athletes in his private practice, Dr. Long
(a former college hockey player himself) is the team
dentist for the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes.
No matter what sport or skill level, Dr. Long says athletes
need to take care of their teeth both on and off the field.
“Most athletes are careful about what they eat and their
workout routine. Part of that routine should include taking
care of your mouth and teeth every single day,” he says.
"It would be a shame to miss practice or a game because y
ou are in the dentist's office receiving treatment or
recovering from a dental surgical procedure.”
Here, Dr. Long shares his playbook for a healthy mouth.
1. Make a Mouthguard Part of Your Uniform
Helmet? Check. Knee pads? Check. Mouthguard? Check!
Mouthguards usually cover your upper teeth and protect
your teeth, lips, tongue, face and jaw against injuries, so
they need to be part of your uniform in any sport you play.
Wearing a mouthguard regularly becomes second nature.
It does not matter what type of mouthguard you choose,
just make sure it fits properly. “The athletes I see feel better
when they start wearing them, and they feel a little naked
without them after they get used to them,” Dr. Long says
In fact, many sports won’t let you play without one.
Dr. Long says USA Hockey requires all youth players to
wear a mouthguard. “The referees have to be able to see it,
and it has to be colored,” he says. “I think that’s a great
2. Sideline Sugary Sports Drinks
If you need to quench your thirst, reach for water instead
of a sports drink. “People are trying to rehydrate, but
there may be a lot of sugar in those drinks,” Dr. Long says.
The bacteria in your mouth will use the sugar from your
sports drink to produce an acid that weakens the hard
outer shell of your teeth, which may increase your risk for
cavities over time.
In his experience with the Hurricanes, Dr. Long says he
doesn’t often see professional athletes drinking sports
drinks. “Their diets are so well-managed they just don’t
have a lot of sugar,” he says. “They make their own sports
drinks, and they’re more high-protein shakes than sugary
3. Brush, Floss, Rinse, Repeat
Practice makes perfect when you’re mastering the skills
of any sport, so do the same with your daily dental habits.
Dr. Long says an unhealthy tooth is more likely to be
damaged if a sports injury happens. “A tooth that has had
a lot of decay and a lot of fillings is nowhere near as
strong as a tooth that has not had decay and has not had
a lot of fillings,” he says.
Keep your smile strong by brushing twice a day for two
minutes and flossingonce a day. Then, in the home stretch
of your daily dental routine, use an ADA-approved mouthwash.