Austin Moss holds his mouth open as long as he can and with three hands getting in there to adjust his fitting that can be a hazard to his breathing as fellow players razz him about the task.
Photo by Andy Towle.
As a former all-region and all-state Longhorn football player, Dr. Eric Anderson knows the value of properly fitting protective gear to prevent or reduce the severity of injuries.
That’s one of the reasons the Anderson Dental Group annually foots the bill to provide custom-made mouthguards to all Payson High School football players.
In addition to paying for the mouthguards, he and his staff show up at Payson High School field each fall to personally fit the protectors on each of the student-athletes.
Such was the case Aug. 15 when Anderson and his assistants were at an after-school practice in Wilson Dome to begin the process of fitting each individual player.
Although custom-fit mouthguards can be expensive, Anderson says they are worth the cost because they reduce the chance of cuts, bruises and disfigurement to the mouth and face.
He also lauds them for providing protection from jaw dislocation, teeth being lost or fractured and the chance of concussion.
With those benefits, athletes can perform with more confidence and become more competitive.
Players praise custom-fit mouth protection as more comfortable and not interfering with speech or breathing.
Christine Chapman oversees the application of the mouth guard and the trimming the molds before and after they are formed in the Vacuum Mold Machine.
The players have the option of requesting a strap be applied to the mouth guard as a final step in the process, most opt not to have a strap.
Chapman advised that the JV football players may come into the office for a fitting if they haven't had the opportunity to do so at this time.
On occasion players wearing braces may have to be refitted as the metal in their mouths may cause a tear in the mold and render it useless.
The alternative to the custom-fit mouth protection that Anderson provides the players is stock mouthguards such as the ones he wore while playing for Payson High in the mid-1980s.
Also called “boil-and-bite” mouthguards, they were the standard player protection 30 years ago, but today’s technology allows dentists, like Anderson, to provide state-of-the-art custom mouth protection.
There are, however, football players who today continue to use the old mouth formed protectors mostly because they are less expensive than custom mouthguards and people, including coaches, don’t fully understand the importance of the custom-fit protectors.
Most dentists and some coaches, like Payson High’s Jake Swartwood, advise not using the stock mouthguards because they usually do not fit well, can inhibit speech and breathing, are uncomfortable and do not provide maximum protection because they are not designed precisely for the athlete’s mouth and teeth.
The American Dental Association recommends that custom mouthguards should also be used in other sports including basketball, ice hockey, soccer, volleyball, wrestling, handball and even skateboarding.
That advice comes on the heels of a study that shows up to 40 percent of all dental injuries are sports related and that 5 million teeth are knocked out every year resulting in nearly $500 million spent on replacing them.