When Kyle Sykes was playing soccer for Barberton High School a few years ago, he learned the importance of wearing a mouth guard the hard way.
He had a custom mouth guard from his orthodontist, but it was in his soccer bag instead of his mouth at the time.
As he went to do a header, Sykes collided with another player and crashed to the ground.
“When he came up, a tooth was out of his mouth completely,” his mother, Shelly, recalled. “It knocked one tooth out and three loose. It tore the skin between his two front teeth. They had to actually stop the game and had players and coaches looking for his tooth in the grass.”
Though his tooth was saved, Sykes had to endure two root canals and have braces put back on for seven months to realign his damaged front teeth.
Now his orthodontist is hoping word of mouth will raise awareness among youth athletes about the importance of protecting their teeth.
Todd Barnett is holding a mouth guard day from 1 to 5 p.m. April 19 at his Barberton office, at Suite A, 86 Conservatory Drive.
Everyone who makes an appointment can get a custom-made mouth guard.
Barnett is charging $20 to cover the cost of materials and staff time. As he has done the previous two years, he said he plans to donate any proceeds from the nonprofit event to a local dental clinic that treats primarily uninsured patients.
Custom mouth guards — which are made from a mold of the athlete’s teeth — typically cost anywhere from $40 to $90, he said.
“Such a simple, small thing can provide a lot,” he said. “When it’s custom made, the kids can breathe easier. It’s easier to talk.”
The event marks the third year Barnett has offered low-cost custom mouth guards to coincide with the American Dental Association’s National Facial Protection Month.
According to the dental association, athletes are as much as 1.9 times more likely to harm their teeth if they don’t wear a mouth guard.
The national association recommends people of all ages “wear a properly fitted mouth guard in any sporting or recreational activity that may pose a risk of injury” to the teeth, jaw, mouth, lip, tongue or inner lining of the cheeks.
“I’ve seen a lot of injuries happen to even my own patients from not wearing their mouth guards,” Barnett said. “We see injuries all the time. I think some of it is education. If we can get everyone to do it, it’s not so much of a stigma.”
After his ordeal, Sykes, now 18, always wears his mouth guard, even if he’s just playing basketball with his friends, his mother said.
“He learned his lesson,” she said.
Barnett said he would like to work with other dentists in the community in the future to expand the discount mouth guard program to more area youth.
He has been making mouth guards in his office for his own orthodontic patients for years, but Barnett said he decided to start the mouth guard day as a way to give back to the community.
“It’s just to protect people’s smiles,” he said.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 330-745-4497.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.