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Discovering the Hidden Potential of Mouthguards
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Providing custom mouthguards for patients may never be a major component of revenue for most dental practices. Nonetheless, this service can help grow your business—in ways you may not have considered. Unfortunately, many dentists choose not to offer mouthguards, believing that they’re not worth the time and effort. Given the popularity of youth sports, such an oversight could be a mistake.
In the United States, nearly 45 million school-age children played an organized team sport in 2014.1 Factoring in parents, siblings, and other family members, the total number of people involved in youth sports exceeds 100 million nationwide.
Sports safety is a major concern for parents, coaches, school administrators, and players. Dental trauma poses one of the greatest risks, with participation in sports activities accounting for 36% of all dental trauma injuries.2 More than 5 million teeth are “knocked out” or damaged each year in the United States, resulting in $500 million in dental and medical costs.2
Many sports—including football, lacrosse, and field hockey—mandate the use of mouthguards. Moreover, the American Dental Association encourages mouthguard usage for 29 sports. When utilized properly, mouthguards greatly reduce the risk of dental injury.
Types of Mouthguards
The most popular type of mouthguard is the “boil-and-bite” version sold at retail stores. This mouthguard is molded to fit the user’s dentition by being heated in boiling water and then having the athlete bite into the softened material, creating an individualized mouthguard. Many varieties are available, generally offering adequate protection at an inexpensive price. One disadvantage for this type is its bulkiness, which can interfere with breathing and speech. Further, if mistakes are made during the at-home heating, the end product can be loose fitting, which will compromise the level of protection. Only one type of boil-and-bite mouthguard has received the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.
Custom mouthguards—created by a dentist from dental impressions—provide a better, more comfortable fit and offer far greater protection. They typically cost $100 to $400, which puts them out of reach for some parents. Despite this, custom mouthguards represent an excellent opportunity to gain new patients and build your practice. In fact, they can be one of the services that make a practice stand out in a crowded dental field.
A Gateway to New Patients
How can dentists reach potential patients with a compelling message? One way is to become known in the community for providing a service that few other dentists offer.
Similar to offering a free new patient evaluation or whitening services at a discounted price, custom mouthguards should be viewed as a gateway service for new patients and their families. Three strategies for marketing custom mouthguards include: 1) offering custom mouthguards at a reduced price to local athletes and their families; 2) volunteering to be a team dentist; and 3) ensuring your referring doctors know you offer this service.
By lowering the price of custom mouthguards, you can appeal to more parents. After all, consider the hundreds of dollars parents spend on equipment, shoes, uniforms, and fees so that their children can play sports. Setting a low but fair price and building value for the custom mouthguard will attract more parents and their children to your practice.
The second strategy of being a team dentist allows you to have face-to-face contact with students and their parents while participating in team sports, the driving force for your revenue. Dental trauma occurs more frequently in contact sports, such as football, hockey, and lacrosse. As a team dentist, you could advise parents and players on proper mouthguard wear and care, recommend the best over-the-counter mouthguards, and provide education on the advantages of custom mouthguards. Check with local school districts about their rules for volunteering.
Finally, let your referring dental partners know you provide custom mouthguards. Parents investing in orthodontic treatment for their children are more likely to opt for better smile protection offered by a custom mouthguard. In addition, oral surgeons and endodontists often treat trauma resulting from sports injuries. Parents of children who have experienced a sports-related dental injury are strong candidates to purchase a custom mouthguard.
Many consumers may overlook the importance of custom mouthguards and purchase one off the shelf because they perceive this option to be quick, easy, and inexpensive. However, parents want the best for their children. Custom mouthguards represent a better choice in terms of protection and can mean the difference between keeping and losing teeth. Use these strategies to educate and motivate families about the advantages of custom mouthguards, while building your practice.
1. Merkel DL. Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes. J Sports Med. 2013;4:151-160.
2. Petruska S, Forestier J. Dental injuries from sports trauma: review and case study. J Cosmetic Dent. 2009;24(4):82-90.
3. Young E, Macias R, Stephens L. Common dental injury management in athletes. Sports Health. 2015;7(3):250-255.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Founder & CEO, Levin Group, Inc.
Management & Marketing Seminars