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Health Team

Custom mouth guards could keep athletes smiling

Posted July 30, 2015

Many children or even college and professional athletes don’t wear protective mouth guards when competing, but custom mouth guards could be an investment that keeps athletes smiling.

David Noel played basketball for three years for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, including a national championship year in 2005. Today he plays professionally in France and runs his own youth basketball camp at his former high school, Durham Southern. He tells the kids they should protect themselves in any way they can, including the inside of their mouths.

“One of my teammates, he got hit in the mouth this season and lost his whole front tooth,” said Noel.

That incident is why Noel went to see his dentist, Dr. Tasha Hinton, to get a custom sports guard.

Hinton says it’s not often that her patients ask for a mouth guard before damage occurs, like broken teeth or avulsions, which means the whole root is gone. Without protection, the athlete is also at greater risk of concussion and bad cuts or punctures to the lip. A custom guard typically costs a few hundred dollars, but Hinton says they’re worth the investment, as dental work for damage could cost thousands of dollars.

“Losing a tooth can run you a lot of money. You’re talking implants, you’re talking bridge work,” said Hinton.

To make the custom mouth guards, a tray filled with molding material is pressed and held onto the teeth for a few minutes to harden. The impression is used to create a model of the patient's teeth, which is sent off to create the final product in whatever color or mix of colors the patient prefers. Noel got his in Carolina Blue.

“It’s honestly not a bad process at all,” said Noel.

Hinton says the over-the-counter “boil and bite” mouth guards are cheaper and better than nothing if they’re used instead of custom mouth guards.

“If it doesn’t fit right, you’re not going to wear it,” said Hinton.

Noel says using mouth guards is now part of the advice he gives his camp kids.

“Protect your mouth, protect your smile,” said Noel.

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