Community Service Update: Athletic Mouthguards

Last March I was invited to watch an exhibition game of the Philippine Basketball Legends, a group of retired professional basketball players who travel to different parts of the world to play against local Filipino basketball teams. The first game was between the Baltimore Filipino basketball team and the Washington DC Filipino team for ages sixteen and below. Prior to watching this game I was not a fan of basketball at all. In 1990 I even passed up an opportunity to watch the Detroit Pistons play – the same year they won the NBA championship!

That day in March was cold, windy, and dark with freezing rain. All I wanted was to be at home in my flannel pajamas reading a book under warm covers. But because I promised my patient, the basketball commissioner, that I would go, I went to the game. The game was held at Notre Dame College in Baltimore. It was exciting and the score remained close the whole game. In fact the two teams were tied four times and they had to break the tie four times until team Baltimore won the championship. One thing I noticed was a young boy from the Washington DC team. He was a swift runner and a very talented and confident player. What really set him apart in my mind, though, was that he was the only one wearing a mouthguard.

After the game was over I got to thinking about the newly titled champions. I wanted each and every one of them to have a custom-made mouthguard. I told the coach and the commissioner who both happen to be patients of mine that I would give the boys a custom-made mouthguard. Tom Glass, another dentist friend of mine, liked the idea and volunteered to share the cost of making them.

As we started our project the Academy of General Dentistry came out with an article in their May/June Journal about how custom mouthguards prevented Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries/Concussions (MTBI) in football players. Two doctors did a test on over 400 high school football players comparing custom mouthguards with store-bought over-the-counter versions. The reason the custom mouthguards prevented these injuries was because they are thicker and fit well, extending to the back molars. When there is impact on the lower jaw, the head of the mandible does not jam the skull, thus preventing trauma.

I remembered seeing a skull model at Tom’s house and got to thinking that to show these players the actual difference between a custom made mouthguard and a store-bought one I would have to get “ Skully” the skull a custom-made mouthguard and a store bought one. After all we all are visual people and learn better from show and tell. Hopefully this effort will convince these young athletes to wear them to prevent future injuries.