Custom-fit mouthguards: A win-win for patients and dentists

2016 04 28 14 31 08 544 Donley Timothy 200

Way back when I played youth sports, only football required the use of a mouthguard. At the beginning of the season, we all strapped the state-issued pieces of plastic to our face masks and only knew that we had to wear it in order to step onto the field. Nothing else was said about mouthguard protection. Everyone's parents apparently concluded that there was no good reason to actually buy a customizable mouthguard, since they were getting one for free.

Fast-forward to 2016, and mouthguard protection is bigger than ever. And guess what? Mouthguards are needed year-round for all sports these days -- not just during football season.

Timothy Donley, DDS.Timothy Donley, DDS.

Most people now know that there are many options for mouthguards. The three main types athletes use are boil-and-bite, stock, and custom-fit. Each of these has their own style of fit, comfort, protection, and price. This is where the phrase "you get what you pay for" comes into play -- consumers can meet the basic requirements for the least amount of money, but if they want the best available, they'll have to pay top dollar.

For dentists everywhere, that phrase is vitally important to their business model and practice. With greater parental awareness of the injury possibilities when playing sports, parents and athletes alike want to invest in the top-of-the-line product that will maximize performance while keeping the athlete safe. What is your practice to do?

Offering custom-fit mouthguards is a solid way to increase your dental practice's return on investment. For example, let's say tomorrow you want to get into the mouthguard business. You purchase a vacuum-former (about $400) and 100 mouthguard laminates ($600) for a total start-up investment of about $1,000. Charging the typical fee of $90 per mouthguard gives your office $9,000 in revenue ($8,000 in profit) from selling the custom-fit mouthguards. By the second year, your overhead will consist only of the laminates.

Think about the number of young patients coming through your office doors who most likely play in an organized activity or sport. As mouthguards are either required or highly recommended for most sports, asking patients and parents about the activities that the patient is participating in is a great place to start. Whether it be football, basketball, soccer, or even skateboarding or mountain biking, the recommendation of a mouthguard is always prudent. Providing parents with piece of mind by reducing the chances they will have to endure the time, effort, and cost activity-induced dental injuries is a service worth buying.

As a coach of a high school lacrosse team, I wouldn't even think about letting my guys participate in any lacrosse activities without a custom-fit mouthguard. Our first team meeting is typically at my office for impressions.

“The main goal of the dentist in the mouthguard business is to inform, educate, and customize to the patient's needs.”

Ask your patients where their teammates get their mouthguards. Offering to have the entire team come into your office can be a practice builder on many different levels. Better yet, take your staff and impression materials to registration night for the sport, make the impressions, and have the players pay for them right there on the spot. Deliver the mouthguards to the team a few days later and you'll be in the running for that year's MVP award. You would be doing the players, their parents, and their league a huge favor, all while maximizing your return on investment.

The main goal of the dentist in the mouthguard business is to inform, educate, and customize to the patient's needs. To do so, posters, pamphlets, statistics, and more materials are readily available from reputable organizations and manufacturers to promote the importance of mouthguards in your office.

Take a look at professionals who have an influence on the younger generation -- Steph Curry, arguably the best NBA player right now -- is well-known for his mouthguard use. Pierre Garçon, as another example, always shows off his customized fang mouthguard on the NFL stage. I know I admired pro athletes as a teenager, and I'm positive your patients do too.

With April coming to a close, that means National Facial Protection Month is as well. This would be a great time for dentists to establish themselves as the leaders of the mouthguard business by informing athletes and parents about the benefits and features of the custom-fit mouthguards that only they can provide.

If you're currently not providing mouthguards but are considering it, please realize that the wave of customized mouthguard use has arrived. It's time for dentistry to ride it -- wearing a mouthguard, of course.

Timothy Donley, DDS, is in private practice in Bowling Green, KY, and specializes in periodontics and dental implants. You can contact Dr. Donley at [email protected]

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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