The March 27th game started off pretty well for NBA star Kevin Love. His team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, were coming off a 5-game winning streak as they faced the Miami Heat that night. Less than two minutes into the contest, Love charged in for a shot on Heat center Jordan Mickeyâ€”but instead of a basket, he got an elbow in the face that sent him to the floor (and out of the game) with an injury to his mouth.
In pictures from the aftermath, Loveâ€™s front tooth seemed clearly out of position. According to the Cavsâ€™ official statement, â€œLove suffered a front tooth subluxation.â€ But what exactly does that mean, and how serious is his injury?
The dental term â€œsubluxationâ€ refers to one specific type of luxation injuryâ€”a situation where a tooth has become loosened or displaced from its proper location. A subluxation is an injury to tooth-supporting structures such as the periodontal ligament: a stretchy network of fibrous tissue that keeps the tooth in its socket. The affected tooth becomes abnormally loose, but as long as the nerves inside the tooth and the underlying bone have not been damaged, it generally has a favorable prognosis.
Treatment of a subluxation injury may involve correcting the toothâ€™s position immediately and/or stabilizing the toothâ€”often by temporarily splinting (joining) it to adjacent teethâ€”and maintaining a soft diet for a few weeks. This gives the injured tissues a chance to heal and helps the ligament regain proper attachment to the tooth. The condition of toothâ€™s pulp (soft inner tissue) must also be closely monitored; if it becomes infected, root canal treatment may be needed to preserve the tooth.
So while Kevin Loveâ€™s dental dilemma might have looked scary in the pictures, with proper care he has a good chance of keeping the tooth. Significantly, Love acknowledged on Twitter that the damage â€œâ€¦could have been so much worse if I wasnâ€™t protected with [a] mouthguard.â€
Loveâ€™s injury reminds us that whether theyâ€™re played at a big arena, a high school gym or an outdoor court, sports like basketball (as well as baseball, football and many others) have a high potential for facial injuries. Thatâ€™s why all players should wear a mouthguard whenever theyâ€™re in the game. Custom-made mouthguards, available for a reasonable cost at the dental office, are the most comfortable to wear, and offer protection thatâ€™s superior to the kind available at big-box retailers.
If you have questions about dental injuries or custom-made mouthguards, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles â€œThe Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuriesâ€ and â€œAthletic Mouthguards.â€