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All I want is my two front teeth ... or a mouth guard

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Imagine joining your squadron's intramural softball team. You buy a glove, a ball and the proper shoes. You practice with your team. Then, after donning the team's jersey and showing up to the softball diamond for your first game, you take your position on the field.

It's game time!

An opposing team player steps up to the plate and waits for the pitcher to throw the ball. The batter hits a line drive between the second and third basemen, the ball proceeds to hit a patch of grass and shoots upward into the air at 90 mph. You run to catch the ball, when it soars over your glove and makes contact with your face.

That's what happened to me during a game on a warm day in May 2007 in California.

I was playing the position of rover, which is an extra outfielder who plays about 20 feet behind the infield. The ball made contact with my face, and I dropped to the ground, screaming. There was blood everywhere.

My face was not a pretty sight--the bone that connects to the top row of teeth was now broken. My left front tooth and the one next to it broke off and pushed back into my mouth. My teeth went through the skin of my upper lip, leaving two gaping holes in it. Blood was oozing onto the field.

Players and spectators rushed out onto the field to help me, including a person from the opposing team who had some nursing experience prior to joining the Air Force. He grabbed someone's sweater and used it to put pressure on my injuries in hopes to stop the bleeding. Then, I was taken off the field, where a friend accompanied me to the hospital.

I received medicine for the pain and then got an MRI to see if there was further damage than what they saw. Then I waited for the doctor.

After a couple of hours, I was finally wheeled off to surgery. The doctor told me he was going to put the bone back where it should be, and he would stitch up the two holes in my upper lip.
When I woke up, relief flooded through me, as I felt that my teeth were back where they belonged. When I was younger I wore braces for over four years, so I had been very worried about my smile.

The doctor told me that he didn't know if my two teeth could be saved and gave me a referral to an orthopedic specialist for further treatment.

The specialist put braces on the two teeth, as well as the surrounding teeth, so that the maxilla and the teeth would heal properly. I wore those for six weeks. During this time, I had a diet that consisted of mainly liquids or soft food.

In addition, I had three root canals done--two on the damaged teeth, and one on the other front tooth. I was told that they were unsure whether or not I would need fake teeth, or if my teeth would be all right. That was very scary to hear for a person who prides herself on her smile.

During the healing process, I looked pretty funny. My lips were swollen so that my top lip extended past my bottom lip. I had stitches on my face. Eating wasn't fun either. Today, I can't eat apples or hard fruit like I used to; I have to cut it up first.

Fortunately, I can say that those procedures helped me keep all of my teeth, and I had wonderful people who took care of me during that time.

But, it could have all been avoided if I had been wearing protective gear. Simply wearing a mouth guard might have saved me from this unnecessary injury.

My negligence cost the military both time and money. I missed a day of work. Ultimately, my medical procedures cost more than $10,000. That was money that could have been spent on something else.

People are the military's greatest asset. As such, it's our responsibility to make sure we are taking the proper steps to ensure we are safe, so we can be ready to work the mission at any time.

It takes only minutes to put on gear that will protect you from injury. You never know how important that safety gear is until you find yourself in the hospital because you thought an accident would never happen to you.