A mouthguard is a protective device for the mouth used in protecting the teeth and gums. It comes in many shapes and sizes, but have you ever wondered its origins as to where it came from? Over my studies, I have come across 5 extraordinary events that shaped the history of a mouthguard into what it is today.
The first major event of making a mouthguard what it is today was the invention of the mouthguard itself! This occurred sometime during late 19th century, and early 20th century. Boxing is thought to be the first sport to receive specially designed mouthguards rather than using substitute implements such as a piece of wood, cotton or tape. A British dentist named Woolf Krause, as well as other dentists and inventors around the world, began to fashion mouthpieces for the boxers everywhere. The well designed mouthguard allowed Boxers to focus on the fighting rather than clenching something with their teeth. However, these mouthpieces were nothing to be compared to what we have today. The first mouthpieces crafted by Krause were strips of natural rubber resin, gutta-percha, placed over the maxillary incisors (two front teeth) of the boxers right before they entered the ring. These mouthpieces could only be used once and it wasn’t until later on that reusable mouthpieces were invented.
The second major event of mouthguard history is when it first appeared in dental literature. Occurring in 1930, descriptions of mouthguards first appeared and were written by Dr. Clearance Mayer. Mayer was a dentist and boxing inspector for the New York State Athletic Commision. Mayer described how a custom mouthguard, like that of Impact Mouthguards could be manufactured from impressions using wax and rubber. Although this is a very simplistic form of what goes into making a custom mouthguard, his articles outlined the basic premises, thus giving guidelines for more to be made.
In 1947, there was a breakthrough for mouthguards that paved the way for the rest. During that year, Rodney O. Lilyquist, yet another dentist, used transparent acrylic resin to form what he termed an “acrylic splint.” This was then molded to fit over either the upper or lower teeth, thus giving the boxer a snug comfortable fit and the ability to talk while wearing it. This was not always possible as the old mouthguards used to be so thick it was hard to talk while it was in one’s mouth. In January of 1948, a procedure detailing the making and fitting of an acrylic mouthguard was described in detail by Dr. Lilyquist. This led him to receive nationwide recognition for being the founding father of the modern day mouthguard. Having all of this press, word got out about the benefits of a mouthguard, thus making it more popular worldwide, and leading us to our fourth major event.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s dental injuries were responsible for 24-50% of all football related injuries. This then prompted the American Dental Association to begin conducting research on mouthguards. They were astounded by the results, and began to promote the benefits to all about mouthguards. In 1960, the ADA recommended the use of latex mouthguards in all contact sports, and by 1962, mouthguards were required in all of high school football. Since the induction of mouthguards in sports, the amount of dental related injuries has decreased substantially.
The last major event is the construction, and refinement of custom made mouthguards. As opposed to its counterpart, boil-and-bite mouthguards, custom made mouthguards are crafted to fit perfectly to your teeth. Custom made mouthguards, although more expensive, are much more suited to protect your teeth, and even improve your performance. Some benefits that come along with a custom made mouthguard are: more oxygen intake, better ability to communicate, comfort, protection (dual laminated for maximum protection) and a professional fit that boil and bite mouthguards just simply can’t provide.
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