Four Questions with Dr. Emilio Canal, Jr., Team Dentist for U.S. Soccer

Dr. Emilio Canal, Jr. (far right) in Murcia, Spain, conducting pre-World Cup dental exams for U.S. Soccer prior to their last friendly match in September. He did 26 exams and impressions for mouth guards.

Dr. Canal is a member of the VDA and Northern Virginia Dental Society and is on the U.S. Soccer Federation Medical Advisory Committee. He is a Fellow of the Academy for Sports Dentistry. He joined us for a Q&A on sports dentistry.  

What’s your favorite part about working with athletes as a dentist? 
Having grown up playing different sports and having a love for sports it allows me to stay involved in sports and be part of the team as well as part of the sports medicine team, giving me an opportunity to work with different medical disciplines.  

What are some of the unique issues you deal with in treating athletes? 
Scheduling is always an issue with athletes with their training schedules always changing and player appearances that pop up. I would say this is the biggest issue. The other issue is education, having them understand that oral health plays a role in athlete performance and that they cannot give 100% of their capacity if there is an oral issue. There was a great study done at the 2012 London Olympics linking Olympic athlete performance to oral health and Athletes perception. The other issues are knowing doping rules so you don’t prescribe a banned substance and knowing about the psychology of the professional athlete. 

If you could pick one piece of advice for student and professional athletes to remember about their oral health, what would it be? 
Oral health is part of your overall health. If you have any issues such as gingival inflammation due to not keeping up with your regular hygiene visits, it is no different than inflammation in any other part of the body. Your immune system has to deal with it and you are not going to be able to give 100% of your potential.

For a dental student or dentist interested in sports dentistry, where would you recommend they start?
I would recommend they look up the Academy for Sports Dentistry at That's the path I took. I joined the academy, got involved locally with teams in the area and it led me to where I am now. 

You can hear more from Dr. Canal about sports dentistry, injury prevention and the doctor/patient perspective at an upcoming webinar cohosted by the ASD and ADA. 

Learn more