On May 24, 2014, 20-year-old midfielder Elliot Yeo made a tragic mistake, which potentially could cost tens of thousands of dollars in dental fees, by taking his mouthguard off while playing a game against Collingwood at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. With his mouthguard placed securely in his sock rather than his mouth, he brutally collided with 113 kg Collingwood Ruckman Jarrod Witts’ shoulder, causing his teeth to snap off and dramatically fly through the air. (His lower leg is reportedly doing fine.)
The 30 second (and very expensive) “breather”
Adding more tragedy to the event was the fact that the young West Coast Eagles player had taken the mouthguard off just for 30 seconds “to have a breather”. Professional footballers today are keenly aware of the dangers of playing without a mouthguard and in fact this type of event is atypical in the AFL arena. Five years ago Hawthorn forward Lance Franklin had a tooth knocked out, again as his mouthguard was nicely secured in his sock and not protecting his teeth.
At the time, the current CEO of Sports Medicine Australia issued a reminder following that incident, urging players that “…mouthguards are designed to be worn, not to be tucked into socks.”
Furthermore, he stated “A well-fitting mouthguard should be an essential part of a footballer’s protective equipment and should be worn at all times.”
“All I want to Christmas is my two front teeth”
The above tweet from Yeo was posted and retweeted all over the Internet in the last week, with comments applauding his good humour. Fair enough. Sadly though, he may not remain in such good humour as such an injury will require ongoing treatments throughout his lifetime. In a world where everything seems to be remedied by a “quick fix”, it’s easy to think that two front teeth could easily be repaired, and everything would be back to ‘business as usual’.
Today there are a myriad of cutting edge dental treatments available, and we are sure that Yeo will be fine. But this incident will come at a cost. And it will take time – to treat an incident that was completely and utterly avoidable.
‘Fixing’ a dental disaster
It appears that the current opinion amongst his fellow teammates is that despite the incident being unfortunate, he will get his teeth “fixed” and continue training this week. Done. Sorted. Certainly temporary measures will be made for this can happen; however, it must be stressed that losing two front teeth is not trivial and getting them repaired is not simple.
“It’s a lifetime injury, not an isolated event,” stated a prominent Melbourne dentist last week.
He quoted that the cost of treating such an injury could be anywhere up to $70,000. However, we think this quote is quite extreme, and at Dentistry Plus we would estimate that such costs may only amount to approximately $15,000. Nonetheless, it is a great shame to have to spend the time and money on something so avoidable.
Adjacent teeth could also be affected by the trauma, requiring Yeo to be under observation for at least the next couple of years. The roots of his teeth are still in place as the teeth were broken just above the gum line and not completely dislodged. Therefore, the roots are still intact.
With his teeth left in this vulnerable state, the nerves are exposed, which is incredibly painful. Even breathing hurt. It is possible that he would either need to have the nerve surgically removed or have the two teeth totally extracted.
Dental implants provide a fantastic long-term solution for those individuals missing teeth. However, they are not an ideal substitute for professional athletes playing a high impact sport. Dental implants are attached to the bone and therefore are totally immobile. Our natural teeth have some ligamentous structure, allowing for slight movement. With the option of dental implants removed, it is possible that he will need to have dentures fitted for the duration of his football career.
Sports mouthguards – an absolute necessity
This incident once again highlights the necessity for wearing sports mouthguards when playing contact sports. We understand that accidents happen, and to Yeo’s defence, he only took the mouthguard off for 30 seconds. We’re all human. However, the seriousness of the devastation has made certain dental professionals less forgiving. As one dental expert claimed, “It was the height of stupidity” for an athlete not to wear sports mouthguards when engaging in a collision sport.
Custom fit sports mouthguards
A good mouthguard fits properly and is custom-made for your mouth only. With a proper fit, the desire to take the mouthguard off “for a breather” is greatly lessened. For more information about mouthguards, visit our dedicated website: gameguardian.com.au. Our highly skilled dental prosthetists can make your custom mouthguard that will provide you with full protection – and not interfere with breathing.
For all dental emergencies, contact Dentistry Plus immediately at the location nearest to you, or call us on (08) 9300 1515.
Dentistry Plus – your family dentist and cosmetic dentistry experts