26 February 2024

Illawarra dental practice supports sporting clubs with more affordable and effective mouthguard initiative

| Keeli Royle
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Dr Shabbir Kermali at King Street Dental.

Dr Shabbir Kermali wants to improve community access to effective mouthguards. Photo: Keeli Royle.

As sporting seasons kick off across the Illawarra, a Warrawong dental practice is helping local clubs to access a vital piece of safety equipment in a more affordable and convenient way which could help save players from injury and parents thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Mouthguards are proven to make a difference if a player suffers a blow to the face while playing sport, with many associations implementing requirements or recommendations for them to be used as part of their policies.

But King Street Dental’s Dr Shabbir Kermali said with different options, fits and price points on the market, not all mouthguards were equal and some could even give players a false sense of security.

“There’s basically three types of mouthguards,” Dr Kermali said. “You’ve got the standard mouthguards that generally try to fit someone’s mouth, then you’ve got the boil and bite mouthguards and you put them in hot or warm water and you can mould them a little bit better according to the frame of your mouth, and then there’s the custom ones that the dentist makes for you.”

While comfort may be the most obvious difference for the user, the fit of a custom-made mouthguard compared to something generic from a store can impact its effectiveness.

“The way the mouthguard works is when you get a knock to the mouth it tends to spread the force of that knock everywhere, not just on one location.

“So not only is the fit important, the way a mouthguard is designed is important – it can’t just cover the teeth, it needs to cover the jaw, the gums, the bones, everywhere so the more surface area you have the more the force is distributed across the whole mouthguard.”

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And the material used to make the mouthguard also needs to be factored in.

“When you’ve got a really soft material like a boil and bite, it’s limited in what it can do, and if you’ve got one that doesn’t fit correctly well then it’s not going to split the force very evenly.”

But custom-made mouthguards can often be expensive or inconvenient to get made, so King Street Dental is hoping to make it easier for community members by slashing mouthguard prices during March and partnering with sporting organisations to make sourcing them more convenient.

Berkeley Eagles Junior Rugby League Club is one of the organisations across the region hoping to benefit from the initiative with president Dee Milosevski encouraging members to make it a priority this season.

“I’ve seen plenty of chipped teeth and broken teeth from football and the cost of dental work is something that parents can do without,” she said.

“The initial outlay of paying for a custom mouthguard initially might save them thousands in the long run if you’ve broken your adult tooth, and normally it’s the front teeth that everyone sees.”

Kobi from Berkeley Eagles

Kobi started wearing custom mouthguards from a young age. Photo: Photo: Dee Milosevski.

Dee has seen firsthand with her son that getting kids used to comfortable mouthguards early can increase their likeliness of wearing them as they get older.

“He was probably about eight when he got a fitted mouthguard; he’s never complained about his mouthguard and he wears it religiously every single game,” Dee said.

“But then I have my next boy who never had a proper mouthguard and he now refuses to wear one and he’s 12.

“I think if I had have implemented a fitted mouthguard from the start for him, he would be more comfortable wearing it now.”

She’s hoping to educate parents about her own experience and get kids wearing fitted mouthguards from as young as under six.

“When it’s fitted right, they can talk with a mouthguard, they can breathe with it; it doesn’t move around in their mouth.

“I tell them that if your kid is going to be playing football for the next 20 years, you want to protect those teeth, so if you can implement a good quality mouthguard early, that kid will be more used to it.”

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And the club is hoping even more people will jump on board when dentists from King Street Dental go to the fields to remove the inconvenience of needing to go the dental practice.

“People are going to be there anyway because it’s our training day,” Dee said. “No-one is going to be put out by having to make an appointment and get themselves there and organise it out of their own time; they’re already going to be out at the field and then the dentists are going to come on site; it’s a nice, quick process.

“And some kids might have a fear of the dental surgery as well so it’s taking away that fear of going there.”

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