Talkin’ bright smiles & performance mouthguards with the U.S. Ski Team’s first official dentist

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on November 23, 2009 10:40 am

Dr. James Harding of the Vail Valley Center for Aesthetic Dentistry does not want you to be a “Yuck Mouth.”  As the first official dental provider (ever!) of the U.S. Ski Team, Harding will provide free dental services to all A & B alpine, nordic, and snowboarding team members.

This is not your average dentist, however.  Dr. Harding has been at the forefront in researching the new field of “performance mouthguards.”  When America’s best flash their pearly whites in Whistler this February, surely Dr. Harding will be proud.

First impressions of the fine ladies and gentlemen who make up our U.S. Ski Team?
I will say that the ski team (and snowboard team) athletes are in great shape. I have been impressed with them taking time out of their crazy training schedules to make the trip to Avon and have dental appointments. These kids are on the hill at 6:30 in the morning and often times train in Copper before moving over to Vail for more training and then have to hit the gym. There is just not much free time in their lives as they get ready for the World Cup. Obviously the thing that is on all of their minds is making the Olympic Team so they know they need good early season results.
Ski team members are always traveling.  What tips do you have for folks always on the go to keep a healthy and clean smile?
Great question…probably a simple answer. Brush, floss and get to the dentist on a regular basis. What you see with many athletes is that they are not home much and just don’t get to see the family dentist they grew up seeing, so before you know it, they have not been to the dentist in a few years. This is so common, especially living in a ski town like Vail where people come out here after college and then wake up one day five years later realizing they have never established health care providers in their new “home-town.”
Tell us about these new mouth guards that cost 4k that supposedly help ahtletes perform at peak levels because they align the spine?  You backing these?
This is an entire article all by itself. I have been teaching at The Las Vegas Institute (LVI) for almost ten years now.  LVI is the foremost postgraduate teaching institute in the world. We teach what is known as Neuromuscular Dentistry. This is a philosophy of dental treatment where we relax the muscles to find the optimum physiologic position of the bite. We use it all the time when restoring people’s mouths and working on people with chronic TMD pain. Why do I tell you this? Well, Anil Makkar was one of our students and as he learned about NM Dentistry…He then took the principals of NM dentistry and developed the PPM (Pure Power Mouthguard) about three years ago. He has since that time been promoting this device with some impressive results. There are several big-name athletes using the PPM (Shaq, TO, most of the New Orleans Saints, etc…). Bode is a big believer in the technology and is also promoting PPM. The competition in the world of “performance mouthguards” is coming from Under Armor. This summer they signed with a small company from Minnesota to get into this world.
So what does this mean? Bode is PPM, Lindsey was PPM and is now using the UA. I am currently involved in getting some testing down in Park City through the Sports Science Dept of USSA. This is being done to see if the athletes can actually get a measurable advantage from the mouthguards. Bottom line is that I think they can, but I want to see exactly how much and how this affects the skiers before everyone is fitted for a “performance mouthguard” before we fully endorse.
How do you kindly inform someone their breath isn’t the best?

You are too funny. This is obviously easier for me but still a delicate issue. I normally start by asking if they use a tongue scraper to remove plaque from the tongue. This is a good introduction to the topic of bacteria causing bad breath problems.
You’re the first official dental provider for the U.S. Ski Team.  Congrats! Will you be doing a year-to-year cavity count?  Any special perks for being the official dentist of the U.S. Ski Team?  You get to forerun the Birds of Prey, perhaps?

Thanks, as for perks, I would not think of skiing the Birds of Prey as a perk…more of a death wish!  I spent many years on the race crew and we used to talk about the possibility of making it to the bottom in one piece when it is in race condition. Most likely you would end up as a “flounder in the net” and never make it anywhere near the bottom!
On a serious note, the athletes have been awesome! Many of these guys are just getting by and trying to live the dream of being an Olympic athlete and are so thankful to have us providing services to them which is very rewarding.

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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