America’s national pastime, baseball, can be traced back as far as the mid-18th century. Peppering the English language with classic idioms like “out of the ballpark,” “touch base” and “hit or miss,” the impact of this popular sport has been unbeatable.
But its legacy goes beyond everyday phrases and record-setting feats on the field — and it’s not always pretty. When it comes to baseball’s impact on your teeth, there’s a lot less to celebrate. Here’s a quick look at three dangerous habits commonly associated with the sport.
Back in the 1850s, when the baseball craze first began to sweep the nation, no one knew about the harms of tobacco. Baseball players initially began chewing tobacco because it kept their mouths moist, and they used tobacco spit to soften their gloves.
The risks, however, greatly outweigh these benefits. Like cigarettes, chewing tobacco is linked to stained teeth, bad breath, root decay, gum disease and even cancer. Among the Major League stars of the last century, both Babe Ruth and Bill Tuttle died of oral cancer after years spent chewing tobacco on the field.
Although players in the 21st century are much more aware of the dangers of chewing tobacco, the tradition is unfortunately still alive. It wasn’t until 2011 that Major League Baseball stopped teams from providing their players with smokeless tobacco, and Major League player Tony Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer in 2014. But it’s not just professional players who have had to fight the habit — chewing tobacco can be found even on high-school baseball teams.
To protect your mouth and save your life, say “no” to tobacco and choose sugar-free gum instead.
While it’s not fatal, snacking on sunflower seeds is still a terrible way to treat your teeth. The habit, which emerged in the 1950s and ’60s as an alternative to chewing tobacco, puts undue stress on your teeth. This can lead to enamel loss and even fractures.
Can’t pass up the salty snack? Try unshelled seeds instead.
If you don’t spit or snack on the field, one of the biggest threats to your dental health is the baseball itself. The impact of the hard ball hurtling through the air can knock out your teeth and even misalign your jaw. Other baseball-related injuries include broken teeth and cuts and bleeding of the lips and tongue.
According to a study among high schoolers, 16% of high-school baseball injuries affected the mouth and teeth. Despite these risks, too many baseball players avoid using a mouthguard.
Mouthguards, which can be purchased at a sports store or custom ordered by your dentist, are the No. 1 way to prevent damage to your teeth and jaw. Whether it’s a game or just practice, don’t step onto the baseball diamond without your mouthguard.
Last updated December 20, 2022
The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.