Mouthguards have come a long way in history; from a chunk of wood to a perforated polymer. At what point in history did we decide we needed to protect our pearly whites? Well, we can thank the sport of boxing for that.
In the late 1800's, boxers often clenched a piece of wood, wool, tape or sponge between their teeth. They quickly found it hard to focus on the fight while clenching teeth protectors at the same time. Woolf Krause, a british dentist, drove the development away from clenching. He invented strips of rubber resin and would place them on the incisors.
Lewis was the first professional athelte to sport Krause's resueable mouthguard with the new "gum shield" technology. Many, including the opponent's manager, critisized the mouthguard as giving an "unfair advantage".
This began an era of mouthguard decline...
It wasn't until 1927 that the need for mouthguards became apparent. After a chipped tooth prematurely ended an important fight between Jack Sharkley and Mike McTigue, mouthguards became widely accepted and used in the boxing community.
By the 1940's the mouthguard was in desperate need of a makeover!
At that time, dental injuries were responsible for around 24-50% of all American football injuries. L.A. dentist, Rody Lilyquist, often referred to as the "father of the modern mouthguard", developed the use of a transparent acrylic resin in mouthguards. He used the acrylic splints to reduce the size and increase comfort in the guards. His invention was picked up by the American Dental Association (ADA), which led to national recognition of mouthguard use in all sports, especially football.
The beginning on 1990's US dentists brought a new phase of evolution with development of technology of fabricating high-heat and pressure-laminated mouthguards made out of ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) dental plastic.
By the end of the 20th century, companies were starting to invent different types of mouthguards with thermo-plastics which led to the invention of the boil-and-bite.
The next step in the history of mouthguards? SISU. With it's modern design and high-tech approach to safety, SISU Guards offer the player the best custom-fit solution: all the protection with none of the bulk.
What's next on the mouthguard horizon?
In our labs, we are working on the prototype of a responsive mouthguard through a National Science Foundation grant.
Wearable technology is also fighting to get into the mouthguard scene. With promising new developments, there is a potential to solve the problem of impact tracking during collisions. But the design is far from perfect and the data is still infantile in it's development. At a whopping cost of $199.00 a pop, the current options will be a little slow to move into the mass market...
Who will be the champion of the next generation of mouthguards? The race is on...