Baseball and dental hygiene

Spring is here, and it’s “batter-up” time. Although I prefer basketball and football, I must admit I do enjoy going to a baseball game on a warm summer evening.

Spring is here, and it’s “batter-up” time. Although I prefer basketball and football, I must admit I do enjoy going to a baseball game on a warm summer evening. Eating hot dogs and junk food is allowed at sports events, right?

I also am intrigued by the pulling and tugging on the uniform, the hat, the sleeves ... you get my drift. Then there is the kicking of the dirt and the hand signals between the pitcher and the batter that my husband assures me really do mean something. One thing, however, that does not intrigue me is the chewing and spitting which occur everywhere on the field and in the dugout - or should I say “from the dugout.”

Last year, I had the pleasure of being invited to work with the dental team at North Suburban Dental Associates (home to Barry Freydberg and 10 of the finest dentists in Chicagoland, as they like to call it). There, I met five of the most dedicated and passionate hygienists that I have ever had the honor to work with. Seasoned veterans (as we like to call ourselves), these dynamic clinicians were ready to “step up to the plate” and update their periodontal protocols. Dr. Abdullah is the periodontist who has the distinct pleasure of working with this extraordinary dental team. The transition was very successful and we continue to work together.

Recently, they sent me the following “Letter to the Editor,” written by Mary Kaye Lavorato, RDH. Mary Kay has been part of the team for many years, and also happens to be (as they all are) a baseball fan and a devoted Cubs fan. With her permission, we offer it to you, the reader, in the hopes that you, too, will take action in this worthwhile campaign.

“Now that spring training has begun, I have seen many of our beloved baseball players getting into shape. One image that haunts me, however, is the interview with Joe Borowski on a local news telecast. He was excited to be back in the game and stated that he was just interested in ‘staying healthy.’ Unfortunately, the whole time he was talking, I could not take my eyes off of the huge chunk of tobacco stuck inside his lower lip. Talking about staying healthy while chewing tobacco seems like an oxymoron to me.

“Having been a dental hygienist for 28 years, I have seen my fair share of ‘suspicious’ lesions develop into full-blown oral cancer, especially in young people. The statistics are frightening. The worst part of this whole disease is that most people using smokeless tobacco are in denial that they are at risk.

“I urge coaches and players alike to encourage each other to do the research and find out how dangerous this habit really is. Since the average age of first-time users is about 12, even coaches at the high school level should educate their players. There are many Web sites available for information. I urge anyone who currently uses smokeless tobacco to see the dentist for an oral cancer screening as soon as possible.”

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Kids and Smoking states that many people think that chewing tobacco is safe. The report also says that kids who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to also smoke cigarettes.

In previous articles, I have reminded my readers that one person dies every hour in America from oral cancer. Let’s commit to educating our patients about the health risks associated with tobacco use, and encourage them to do oral self-examinations along with having regular preventive dental appointments.

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH, is a recognized leader in the field and an award-winning speaker and consultant. She is a featured speaker at dental meetings and provides in-office consulting services with her team of business and clinical consultants. She may be reached at her Web site at, via e-mail at, or by phone at (804) 745-6015.

More in Science & Tech