Sports and injuries go hand-in-hand.

While many injuries are preventable, as a whole, some are simply just unavoidable – it’s the nature of the beast. From blown knees, to broken ankles to ripped-out shoulders; high-octane activities always have the element of risk incorporated into them.

What many athletes don’t plan for, though, is an injury to their teeth and mouths. Most people would be hard-pressed to find many athletes before the start of a season or before a big sporting event say, ‘boy, I sure hope I don’t lose any teeth today.’

And while this is the case, information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that sports-related dental injuries account for more than 600,000 emergency room visits annually. In addition, the National Youth Sports Foundation for safety says that victims who’ve had teeth knocked out could face lifetime dental costs of more than $10,000-20,000 per tooth.

To combat this problem, Nye Avenue Dental, 2220 N. Nye Ave, has been providing free custom athletic mouth guards to all Fremont area high school athletes for more than a year. So far, these custom guards have aided winter sports athletes at both Fremont High School and Archbishop Bergan Catholic Schools, and the goal is to continue expanding to more area schools to reach more athletes encompassing all sports, Dr. Bethany Olson said during a Tuesday interview with the Tribune.

The idea to make custom-fitting guards in-house came after Olson and her cohorts attended an American Dental Association convention in Denver, Colo.

“We took the entire office down there and our hygienists sat through a Continuing Education class on sports-related dental injuries,” she said. “So they came back to us with the idea that they thought we could give back to the community by providing athletic mouth guards.”

After purchasing equipment enabling the doctors to create the guards in-house, Olson said that she and her peers started putting out feelers by sending emails and attending pre-season sporting meetings at FHS and Bergan.

“I think the best thing we’ve done is to be at the parent meeting before the season begins, because then one of us is standing in front of the parents giving them a letter and explaining exactly how it works,” she said.

Dr. Nicholas Saeger said that the need for customized mouth guards for a variety of sports is absolutely there.

“My brother-in-law played basketball over in Blair, and a kid he played with went up for a layup one time and got his legs taken out from under him,” he said. “He got up and felt his mouth and realized that his two front teeth weren’t there. Then he looked down at the floor and there they were implanted into the wood in the floor.”

The reason that the guards Nye Avenue Dental provides are marketed to high school athletes is because due to the custom nature of the guards, they aren’t designed for children still losing teeth or for people whose teeth are still moving due to braces or Invisalign-type mouth treatments.

The process for making the guards isn’t too difficult, Olson said.

“It’s two short appointments,” she said. “The first appointment is an impression, which usually takes about five minutes. The second appointment is just giving the guard to them, where we just make sure that it fits … Each one we take an impression, pour out the model which has to set for 45 minutes, and then the machine that we use, I think it takes eight minutes to fabricate from the model. Then you just have to trim it.”

These customized guards are superior to stock mouth guards and bite mouth guards.

These guards, which people can purchase on their own, are loose-fitting and can interfere with breathing and speaking, most do not properly cover the back teeth and they also provide less cushion than a custom-fitting mouth guard, released information from Olson and Saeger says.

Information from the American Dental Association shows that an athlete is 60-times more likely to suffer harm to his or her teeth when not wearing a mouth guard. By having a custom-fitting guard, athletes are more likely to wear it and keep it in place.

“This is something that we really want to keep doing forever,” Olson said. “We really want to give back to the community and we thought that this was a super fun and easy way to be able to do that. Everybody likes to support their local high school athletes and we wanted to be part of that.”

For more information regarding custom-fitting mouth guards, those interested are encouraged to call Nye Avenue Dental at 402-721-2252.

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