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Mouthguard program perfect fit for Cleveland dental society volunteers

September 19, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Photo of athletes from John Marshall High School in Cleveland
Safety First: Athletes from John Marshall High School in Cleveland pose with their new, custom-fit mouthguards that the Greater Cleveland Dental Society’s Safe Smiles program provided.

Cleveland — Many public high school athletes passing and punting on football fields across Cleveland are equipped with colorful, custom-fit mouthguards, thanks largely to a program that the Greater Cleveland Dental Society launched.

In August, marking the second year of its Safe Smiles program, volunteers from the dental society and students from Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine provided more than 60 Cleveland public high school athletes with mouthguards — made complete with the colors and nickname of their respective schools, along with a dental exam and education on how to properly use and store a mouthguard.

Photo of Dr. Steven Katz
Dr. Katz
“A custom-fit mouthguard is not something most of the boys would likely ever receive if not for this program,” said Dr. Steven Katz, immediate past president of the Greater Cleveland Dental Society who helped launch the program in 2015.

Since mouthguards are required for Ohio high school football players, many of the students buy inexpensive ones at drugstores that don’t fit properly, or share mouthpieces with their peers, Dr. Katz said.

“The advantage of a custom-fit mouthguard is that it protects the teeth and oral structures better, the students speak and breathe better and therefore have more confidence and perform better,” Dr. Katz said.

In the Safe Smiles program, a team consisting of a volunteer dentist from the dental society, a dental assistant and a Case Western dental student spend about a half hour individually with each student to perform a dental exam, review his medical and dental history, create an alginate impression of the student’s upper arch, review hygiene and home recommendations, and when appropriate, offer a referral to the Case Western dental clinic for further treatment.

Dr. Tom Coreno, who is involved in the program and is a member and fellow of the Academy for Sports Dentistry, presents classes on sports dentistry and mouthpieces to first-year dental students at Case Western. He said in addition to helping the high school athletes, the program gives dental students exposure to sports dentistry and practice with creating and discussing the importance of mouthguards with patients.

Dr. James Lalumandier, professor and chair of the department of community dentistry at the university, who coordinates with the dental society for the program, agrees.

“The effort not only serves the school athletes, but also gives our dental students the opportunity to serve the community while working one-on-one with private practitioners,” Dr. Lalumandier said.

Following the dental visit, Dr. Dan Brett, owner of  Sportsguard Laboratories, fabricates the mouthpieces at a reduced rate, and then volunteers deliver them to the athletes within about a week.

 “You should see the smile that comes to their faces — and that makes us smile. And that’s when we know it is all worth it,” Dr. Katz said.
 
Last year, 118 students received the mouthguards through the program that is funded thanks to in part to donations from Dentsply Sirona, which provide impression trays and alginate, Sportsguard Laboratories and Crest and Oral-B, which supplies hygiene gift bags for the players and offers lunch for the dozens of volunteer dentists, dental assistants and students.

“This program would not have run as well as it has the past two years without the cooperation of the Cast Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine, the volunteers and the donors,” said Dr. Coreno.

For more information about this program, visit the Greater Cleveland Dental Society’s website, www.gcds.org.