Effective mouthguards are essential in ensuring both safety and performance in athletics. But many kids don’t have access to personalized gear and have to settle for off the shelf solutions, if they have mouthguards at all.
GuardLab, which uses digital scanning technology to create custom mouthguards for athletes of all levels, teamed up with Henry Schein to provide free pieces to student athletes during the Greater New York Dental Meeting this week.
Aidan Butler, CEO of GuardLab, discussed his company’s outreach with Dentistry Today.
Q: Can you tell us a little about GuardLab?
A: Absolutely. We make sports mouthguards. We started with neuromuscular guards, and we use digital technology to capture the images we need to make them. We look at mouthguards as a really good addition for dentists who have digital equipment or for dentists who are looking to get into digital dentistry. It’s an easy way to get in there. You start with a scan and you’re able to produce a product that is not overpriced and of very high quality, and that is a really good entree to get patients to see how digital dentistry can be applicable.
Q: What are the advantages of a custom mouthguard over the typical mouthguards you can buy in any sporting goods store?
A: This is where digital plays a big part. It’s really all about comfort and fit. Old fashioned mouthguards, you put them in hot water. They’re no good for man nor beast. They block your airway. One size fits all fits none, as we say. Your teeth can be compared to a fingerprint. Everybody is so individual. Dentists always joke that it’s still one of the things they use when they find a dead body. They look for dental records. How you can get a “small” mouthguard or a “large” mouthguard to fit a population makes no sense. So, we start with accuracy and comfort. And because of that, you get all the benefits of a mouthguard. It’s seated better from a protection standpoint and from a performance standpoint. If your airway is unobstructed, you can breathe. You can perform better.
Q: How did GuardLab get involved in community outreach?
A: We’re partners with a couple of quite cool charities, one of them being Right to Play International, the other being Big Brothers Big Sisters New York. We’re trying to be a socially responsible company. We understand that even though we’ve reduced the price of a normal dental-made guard because of efficiencies, we realize that not everybody can afford high-quality mouthguards. We don’t feel that protection should be dictated by your personal wealth. If you want sneakers, I get it. Some people want fancy sneakers. That’s not my place. But protection should be for everybody. So, we try our best to give back and really help a lot of the inner-city kids who wouldn’t ordinarily, not necessarily afford them, but they wouldn’t have any access to a dental office that could produce them.
Q: How many student athletes do you expect to help out during the show this week?
A: Over 3 days, we’ve got 70 kids coming through, primarily from the Business of Sports School up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We’ve got 2 charities that have provided the kids. And, FC Barcelona, the football team, has actually given a lot of stuff for the kids as well.
Q: How old are the students who are going to be receiving these mouthguards?
A: They’re all high school kids. Though to look at some of them, there’s a guy who’s 6 foot 8. It’s hard to believe, but he’s definitely a high school kid.
Q: How many programs like this do you do throughout the year?
A: We are literally just announcing the partnership with Henry Schein, between the 2 companies. And we hope to be at a lot of the shows. If Schein is there, we think this is a nice offering to come along as well. We will be doing a lot of shows throughout the year, not just in the United States but internationally. We are the official mouthguard of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. In Australia, we are the official mouthguard of Australian Rules Football. So globally, we are really starting to get out there.
Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
A: We love just how we can show off a very simple use of digital technology. A lot of dentists look at scanning and ask, “Is it really going to change my practice?” The answer is yes. With the number of products coming online, it really starts with the scanning. It gets people back into the dentists’ office. In particular, you should buy mouthguards from a dentist. Protecting teeth should be through your dentist. That’s a great utilization of digital technology.