A Gloucestershire dentist is combining his passion for dentistry with a love for rugby.
Dr Leo O’Hara is the principal dentist at Nelson Street Dental Practice in Stroud, Gloucestershire, and explains: ‘I moved to Gloucester in 1985 and ever since then I’ve been a Gloucester Rugby fan. I’ve followed them avidly and I have now reached the stage where I am starting to take my children to the matches. Not surprisingly, I developed an interest in sports dentistry and late last year, just before Christmas, I made contact with Gloucester Rugby in a professional capacity. I am now working with the team, providing them with custom-fit performance mouthwear, both for training purposes and during games.
‘Having played rugby myself for many years, I know the advantages of properly fitting mouthwear and protection. Plus, of course, if you have any trouble on the pitch, the need for dental treatment is extremely important.
‘When I first began to make my enquiries, it became apparent that most rugby clubs don’t have an official dentist, either on the books or whom they recommend to the team. Clearly, there was an opportunity here for me to explore. At the same time, I was taking part in a year-long sports dentistry course and this cemented my interest in dentistry for athletes of all disciplines. From the prevention of impact damage and treatment of trauma injuries, along with less obvious risks to oral health such as sports drinks, which are packed with sugar and acid, I’m keen to help athletes to avoid injury and tooth decay as well as offer them general day-to-day dentistry.
‘The course gave me the motivation to offer my services to Gloucester Rugby, provided they didn’t already work with a specific dentist. Together with Bite Tech, who supplied me with the Under Armour Performance Mouthwear (UAPM) and exclusive UK distributor Nuview, I recently gave a presentation to the players, physiotherapists and fitness and conditioning staff, because it is vital to get everyone on board.
‘It went extremely well and was accepted by the players, who were very happy with what we had to say. We emphasised the benefits of wearing a lower, non-contact mouthpiece for training, to help them reduce stress and achieve optimum performance, as well as upper mouthwear for protection while playing.
‘One of the main advantages of the mouthwear is comfort, followed by a reduction in stress levels. This in turn reduces problems players can experience with clenching while playing, and it positions the jaw to open up the airway, making it easier to breathe. Restricted breathing due to ill-fitting mouthwear is something that affects a lot of players. They should also have upper mouthwear to protect their teeth and jaw from traumatic injury.
‘I had already managed to fit a few of the players for mouthwear at the end of the last season, so they’d had chance to get used to wearing it in situ. This meant we could also have a discussion, amongst the whole team, based around their particular experience of the benefits. It was the ideal way to get the team’s support and trust. We also spoke to individual players after the presentation to find out their thoughts or concerns and get an idea of any issues and how to overcome them. As a result, I’m now in the process of fitting eight or ten more players with the various pieces; some are having upper or lower mouthwear, some have requested both.
‘I’m very happy with the way things have all come together, especially given that it was a relatively short time ago that I first introduced myself to the club, and I’ve carried on building from there.
‘As I mentioned earlier, a lot of clubs don’t have an official dentist. However, thanks to the relationship I’ve built up with Gloucester Rugby, it’s opened up the possibility of seeing players for their routine dental needs.
Having enjoyed a certain amount of success with rugby, I’m now looking forward to introducing sports mouthwear to various local gyms and golf clubs. The lower mouthpiece can be used as an aid for sports people of all descriptions, where there is exertion and the tendency for people to clench or tense up. Using mouthwear during training or non-contact sport reduces the negative effects of that kind of stress on the body, while helping athletes to hone their performance.
‘As a practice builder, the potential is definitely there for performance mouthwear. You can offer a full dental service to people who use a lot of sports drinks (which increase the risk of tooth decay), and who take part in sports regularly, training hard and pushing their immune systems. They will appreciate the idea of seeing a dentist who has more experience and knowledge in that field, who can take care of their performance mouthwear as well as their general dentistry needs. It’s a good way forward and has been a positive move for my practice.’