Why Hockey Players Lose Teeth & How To Protect Yourself

by Simon | Updated On: February 8th, 2020
goalie penalty

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When you think of the prototypical hockey player, the image that comes to mind may be a rugged warrior with missing teeth. Hockey is a high-speed contact game, so losing teeth is a reality that players face. But what can players do to protect themselves from this painful injury? And can mouthguards really save your teeth? We’ll look into the answers here.

For hockey players who wear only a half visor or no facial protection on their helmet, losing teeth is a possibility any time you step on the ice. Hits to the mouth can come from opponents with reckless sticks, high shots, and collisions with other players. To completely protect your teeth, you must wear a full face-shield or a metal cage that attaches to the helmet. Mouthguards provide further protection for your teeth, but they are mainly intended to reduce the impact of your teeth knocking together during a collision.

The Gap-Toothed Hockey Player

hockey player

NHLers like Brent Burns and Drew Doughty exemplify the look of a hockey player: long hair, a beard… and several missing teeth!

If you watch an NHL hockey game, you’ll notice that all the skaters only wear a half visor. This leaves the lower half of the face unprotected.

As a result, it is not uncommon for players to lose and break teeth in games. High sticks are the most common cause, but pucks to the mouth do happen and can cause very serious damage.

Aside from the goalies, NHLers do not wear the full facial protection that a face-shield or cage offers. One of these two options is mandatory for youth, college, and women’s hockey, however.

In recreational hockey, you will encounter a mix of half visors, face-shields, cages, and plain helmets with no additional protection. Most adult leagues and casual games let players choose what they feel comfortable wearing.

hockey fishbowl
Young player protected with a half visor / half cafe

Why Risk Losing Teeth?

For NHLers, the answer mostly boils down to toughness and tradition. Skaters have never worn full facial protection, so if someone was the first to do so, they would be treated differently.

Players also appreciate the freedom of access to their face while they are playing.

Players grew up playing with face-shields and cages, which must be undone to have the face uncovered – for a drink of water, or to wipe away sweat, etc. Going down to a half visor is then a luxury for players when they reach adulthood.

Other players just see losing teeth as “part of the game” – one of hockey’s risks that they’re willing to live with. Some may also like the appearance of the half visor look.

GOTTA SEE IT: James Neal Has Teeth Knocked Clean Out Of His Mouth With High Stick

Do Mouthguards Work?

You likely assume that a mouthguard is used to protect your teeth from the plays that would damage them. This is only partly true.

The mouthguard mainly prevents your teeth from crashing against each other when you’re involved in a collision. It is thought that this also helps prevent concussions, but this notion is sometimes challenged by experts.

Mouthguards offer partial protection for the teeth if you get hit in the mouth.

The mouthguard only covers the top row of teeth, as the player “bites” from the top to keep it in place. This leaves the bottom row of teeth especially vulnerable in hits to the face.

A hard hit directly to the mouth will very likely also break teeth even if a mouthguard is worn. The mouthguard is only a thin layer of rubber coverage for the teeth and is not intended to save them from hard direct hits!

Players who don’t wear full facial protection run the risk of losing teeth. This includes players who wear mouthguards without additional protection. Wearing a visor or no facial protection can be convenient and add style to your on-ice appearance, but you should know the risks of doing so!

A mouthguard should be worn to maximize protection of your teeth, but don’t rely on it to save your teeth from hard hits without the protection of a face-shield or full cage.

Read on -- if want to learn more about the dangerous of hockey.

Simon, the founder of Brave Stick Hockey, started playing hockey in 2003. He launched this website in 2018 to help new hockey players and fans learn more about the game and have more fun while learning.