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A Hard Lesson

Twenty year-old Tampa resident Lindsey Botts is sharing something she learned about athletic mouth guards with others. “If you’re going to play sports, wear a mouthguard that you got from your dentist,” warns Lindsey.   It’s a lesson she learned in early March while playing basketball for Hillsborough Community College during a tournament in the Florida Panhandle.

An opposing player carrying the ball spun around and collided violently with her. Lindsey’s teeth struck the player’s head, sending both women to the floor writhing in pain.  Lindsey was bleeding heavily from the mouth. A quick swipe of the tongue across her front teeth revealed a space where her top teeth once sat. All those years in braces and now her beautiful, straight smile was ruined, she feared.  She was too distraught to examine the damage in the mirror. Others discovered the teeth were intact, but knocked back to the roof of her mouth.

She didn’t think so at the time, but Lindsey was lucky. She got emergency dental care from a Panhandle dentist who spent an hour moving her teeth back into position.  The dentist temporarily stabilized Lindsey’s teeth into proper position with a bonding strip and instructed her to visit her Tampa dentist when the swelling subsided.

A week later, Lindsey’s local dentist assured her she’d received good emergency care. She is now facing root canal therapy and crowns to replace her three front teeth. It could have been worse. She could have needed dental implants.

Mouth Guards Save Teeth

Her dentist cleared her to be fitted for a custom mouthguard and Lindsey has become an advocate for athletes to wear them in practice and during competition. “You never think it’s going to happen to you,” she said, even though close friends lost teeth while playing basketball and soccer in high school and elementary school.

So why wasn’t Lindsey wearing a mouthguard?  In Florida, college basketball players are not required to wear them and many coaches don’t talk about them.  Some players don’t like them because the boil and bite variety available at sporting goods stores are uncomfortable and hinder the rapid-fire dialog that takes place among athletes during heated competition.  The same is true for the unfitted, inexpensive variety handed out by high school coaches to help players meet the mouthguard requirement in competition.  These guards do little to provide actual protection.

Lindsey briefly wore a boil and bite mouthguard in high school. She quickly discarded it because it wasn’t comfortable. Instead, she and her teammates wore the standard-issue, unfitted mouthguards that they cut down to help them communicate during games.  More often than not, they tucked them into their cheeks during play, Lindsay said.

“If only schools required athletes to have effective mouth protection,” said Coast Dental’s Chief Clinical Director Cindy Roark, DMD.  “A dentist can prescribe a comfortable, custom-fitted mouthguard.  Dental labs construct them with multiple layers of strong, flexible materials for maximum protection. A good custom mouthguard enables an athlete to speak while wearing it. When was the last time you saw a professional athlete competing in a contact sport without a mouthguard in place?”

Many coaches don’t realize athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer an injury to the mouth when they are not wearing a mouthguard. Custom mouthguards help spread the force of the impact over a larger area, which dilutes the blow. Well-made mouthguards may also reduce the rate and severity of concussions, the American Dental Association found.

To help educate more people, Coast Dental is developing an educational campaign for coaches and parents in Florida, Georgia, California, Nevada and Texas.  The program will illustrate the difference between over-the-counter products and custom-fitted mouthguards and urge athletes to wear effective mouth protection.  The campaign will include a money-saving coupon for custom mouth guards that will be good at all 182 Coast Dental, SmileCare and Nevada Dental Associates offices.  To find an office near you, visit or call (800) 32-SMILE.

While custom mouthguards are more expensive than the store-bought variety, they can easily pay for themselves if they prevent the need for emergency and restorative dental work.  Not convinced?  Just ask Lindsey Botts.  She’ll tell you.

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