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Do you know the origin of sport mouth guard?

Sport mouth guard, also known as gum shield, is a protective device that covers the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injuries to the mouth, especially in contact sports such as boxing, rugby, hockey, and football. Sport mouth guard has a long and fascinating history, dating back to the late 19th century.

In 1890, a dentist named Woolf Krause in London, England, invented a kind of mouth guard made of resin to prevent boxers from cracking their lips. When wearing this kind of resin mouth guard, the mouth guard is actually tightly stuck to the teeth, and it is difficult to say how comfortable the wearing experience is.

It’s safe to say that from this moment on, how to prevent sports-related dental injuries became a constant topic of interest in the sports world.

Wulf Krause’s son, Phillip Krause, an amateur boxer, improved on his father’s invention by changing the mouthguard material to rubber. Ted Lewis, a friend of Philip Kraus, was the first professional fighter to use rubber boxing mouthguards – during a 1921 welterweight title fight, Lewis wore a rubber mouthguard invented by Philip Kraus.

Ted Lewis
Ted Lewis

However, it is interesting that the mouth guard was considered a kind of “black technology” at the time. During the match, Lewis’ opponent complained to the referee that Lewis had obtained an illegal advantage by using the boxing gum shield and violated the principle of fair play, and the complaint was successful.

The sport mouth guard gained popularity among boxers in the UK and the US in the late 1920s, after many cases of chipped teeth and jaw fractures. In 1930, Jacob Marks, a US dentist, patented a custom-made mouth guard that could fit both the upper and lower teeth. He used an impression of the teeth to make a mold and then filled it with rubber. This type of mouth guard was more comfortable, stable, and durable than the previous ones.

In 1947, a major breakthrough was made in the production of mouth guards. Rodney O. Lilyquist, another US dentist, introduced the first acrylic resin mouth guard, which was transparent and less noticeable. He used a vacuum machine to shape the resin over a model of the teeth. This method allowed for more precise and individualized fitting and adjustment. The acrylic resin mouth guard was widely adopted by basketball and football players, as well as other athletes.

The American Dental Association has introduced Riquist’s technology across the United States. In 1950, UCLA men’s basketball player Dick Perry became the first player to use the new mouth guard. Soon after, acrylic braces entered the professional sports world, and Frankie Albert, quarterback of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, became the first professional athlete to use them.

After this, although the material of the mouth guard is still evolving, the shape details are also constantly improving, and recently there has been a “smart mouth guard” equipped with sensors to monitor how much impact the head has been hit, but after 1950, the mouth guard has not changed too much.

Today, sport mouth guard comes in various shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. They can have different features, such as straps, vents, flavors, logos, or sensors. They can also be customized to suit different sports, positions, and preferences. Some sport mouth guard are even connected to smartphones or computers, providing feedback and guidance on the oral health and performance of the athletes.

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