The dollars and sense of mouthguards

As dentists, when we think of sports protection, we tend to focus immediately on football and the athletes of summer ...

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As dentists, when we think of sports protection, we tend to focus immediately on football and the athletes of summer (August to December, actually). However, when you consider the breadth of sports activity that occurs from August to August every year, it becomes obvious that mouthguards are needed year round … for every athlete and for every sport and/or activity, whether it's basketball, rollerblading, football, skateboarding, tennis, water polo, soccer, or mountain biking.

We all know that dentist–prescribed and laboratory–made mouthguards are effective in protecting against dental trauma. In fact, a recent article, “Customized mandibular orthotics in the prevention of concussion/mild traumatic brain injury in football players: a preliminary study,” published in Dental Traumatology (October 2009), provides a clear indication that there is strong evidence to support the conclusion that some mouthguards (“customized mandibular orthotics”) protect not only against dental trauma, but can also prove effective in preventing concussion.

This is of vital importance, not only because dental trauma can cost patients thousands of dollars and years of dental work (easily prevented by wearing a mouthguard), and not only because mouthguards may be saving teeth and potentially lives, but also because incorporating mouthguards into your treatment offerings can prove to be the single most profit–generating and practice–building move you make all year.

Ask the question

Mouthguards open a door to many new patients. Entire teams of patients, entire leagues of patients, high school teams, little league organizations, age–group athletes, and semipro sports programs, all of which would be happy to make you their go–to sports dentist and their single source for mouthguards, sports orthotics, and complete prosthetic treatment plans.

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to restore someone's smile with six veneers (each costing from $800 to $2,000) and then send them out unprotected to invite that blow to the face that will destroy the work and send the patient/athlete back to square one. Whenever I'm doing any major restorative care, whether it's veneers, crowns, or implants, I always add the cost of a mouthguard into the treatment plan.

The process always begins with a question prior to doing braces, restorative work, or any kind of treatment: What sports or activities are you currently engaged in? Check them off and discuss with your patients the importance of preventing possible serious oral trauma, concussion, and the needless pain and expense that can result.

The biggest obstacle is you

Asking the question and identifying the potential problem accounts for little if you don't believe in the solution.

Most dentists are not convinced that the price is worth the prevention. Most patients only take into account the actual cost of the dentistry. They don't factor in the cost that exists from loss of work time, travel time, and anxiety.

The relatively minor expense of a mouthguard (roughly $300 per person) must be considered in terms of preventive longevity (many years for the average individual) and in comparison to the untold cost of dental work and trauma necessitated by the failure to wear one.

Cost of a mouthguard is about $40. Integrate that cost into your overall treatment plan or simply donate it as a way to generate a little positive patient PR. Then be the dentist who educates his or her patients as to the value of mouthguards, of dental protection, of trauma prevention as opposed to trauma repair. Then watch the new patients beat a path to your door and your ROI soar.

For more information on mouthguards, mandibular orthotics, or other appliance therapy solutions, visit www.appliancetherapy.com or call (800) 423–3270.

Dr. Rob Veis is chief executive officer of The Appliance Therapy Group® (ATG), comprised of Space Maintainers Laboratories®, Success Essentials®, Second Opinion® The Smile Foundation®, and the Appliance Therapy Practioners Association®. For more information, visit www.ApplianceTherapy.com or call (800) 423–3270.

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