When doctors say to stop using dentures, what does that really mean?
The Detroit Red Wings have made a move to make dentures less necessary for players after a new study showed that players using them on their teeth for more than three hours a day were at greater risk of developing cavities and chronic gum disease.
The team says it will begin testing players starting at the start of the regular season.
But while the team’s announcement is a welcome step forward, there’s still plenty of work to do, says Dr. Jennifer Miller, an orthodontist and the team dentist at Dr. Phillips Medical Center in Flint, Mich.
The number of patients who were getting oral hygiene care in the United States in 2013-14 was 8.6 million, Miller says.
“We need to be talking about dental care in a more holistic way.”
The Red Wings and the players’ union say the new study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Archives of Oral Biology, does not prove the benefits of dental care outweigh the risks.
In fact, the researchers suggest that dentures could be beneficial for certain types of teeth.
For example, they found that people with milder gum disease, which is more common in younger adults, had more time to develop plaque and gum disease in their mouths.
“What we really want to do is understand if there are some benefits in the context of the health and the disease,” Miller says, adding that the team plans to begin testing younger players.
The Red Wing’s Dr. James Buss is skeptical of the research, saying it was too small and based on a single study.
Buss, who is also a physician in the team orthodine clinic, says he’s concerned that some players may be taking oral hygiene seriously without knowing the risks or benefits.
“The most important thing is that we’re not taking this as a threat,” he says.
Some players may feel pressured to take care of their teeth because they’re trying to protect themselves from getting cavities, says team orthothroat Dr. John Buss.
“If you’re going to take that risk, you need to have a plan to do that.
You don’t need to do it just to keep the teeth looking good,” Buss says.
Buses also worries that the results of the study might be skewed by the fact that some people have more than one dental condition.
“This study shows that it’s not just teeth that are affected,” he adds.
“It’s the whole body, the body’s functions, including the cardiovascular system, the muscles, even the lungs.”
Miller, the orthodist, says she’s optimistic the Red Wings’ plan will work, but says it’s still premature to make any definitive decisions.
She cautions that, while the Red Wing is moving away from using dentists’ tools for a healthier lifestyle, other teams, such as the Buffalo Sabres, may want to consider using them too.
“I don’t think that this is a panacea, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Miller concludes.