Prosthodontics department helps Laredo athletes keep healthy smiles

Hundreds of Laredo student athletes received free mouth guards last weekend thanks to the help of the Health Science Center prosthodontics department.

Approximately 350 Laredo-area student athletes gathered in Laredo this weekend to participate in the Laredo Mouth Guard Program. The service, provided by the Health Science Center’s prosthodontics department, has become a South Texas tradition and helps prevent injury to athletes’ mouths.

Part of the Combined Advanced Prosthodontics and Maxillofacial Prosthetics Training Program, the Laredo Mouth Guard Program offers free mouth guards for student athletes.

“The humanistic and financial benefits of prevention outweigh the costs of restoring tooth loss due to a physical injury,” said Lily Garcia, D.D.S., M.S., professor and chair of prosthodontics. “We have hundreds of athletes who participate each year, and we’re glad that we can provide this assistance to them.”

Robert Cronin, D.D.S., M.S., professor of prosthodontics, co-director of the Laredo Mouth Guard Program and director of the Graduate Prosthodontic Program, manages the service, which provides the highest level of care to young student athletes. Faculty, pre-doctoral dental students and residents perform the clinical procedures.

“The faculty, residents and staff serve as role models to the student athletes,” said Mayra Orta, assistant clinic administrator and Laredo Mouth Guard Program coordinator. “Local athletic directors, parents and students always express sincere appreciation and enjoy the friendly environment.”

The mouth guards typically serve the student athletes about one year and are much more efficient than most commercial mouth guards. Custom-fit and custom-made mouth guards help maximize injury prevention, Dr. Garcia said. The prosthodontists’ and dentists’ involvement assures an optimal fit for the student athletes.

“We involved the entire dental team in providing this care,” Dr. Cronin said. “Faculty, residents and pre-doctoral dental students custom fit the student athletes for dual-arch mouth guards, which offer maximum protection for the dental structures and minimize potential brain stem injuries.”

Custom single-arch mouth guards are made for athletes, such as quarterbacks, who are required to actively communicate with teammates during the game.

A mouth guard is made of a flexible, thick plastic material and can be made for athletes involved with contact sports such as football, volleyball and basketball, or as protection in a closed-sport environment such as racquetball.

“The department of prosthodontics is proud of this service as part of our off-site resident training program,” Dr. Garcia said.

Drs. Garcia and Cronin express sincere appreciation to the following individuals:
• Mayra Orta, Laredo Mouth Guard Program coordinator
• Nancy Hansen, lab coordinator in prosthodontics
• Claudia Cavazos, D.D.S., director of dental services at the Gateway Community Health Center in Laredo

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