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Local firm looks to protect athletes? mouths

Well Played Mouthguards offers custom-fit mouth pieces to aid in concussion management
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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The person that could stand between your child?s health and a concussion might be an out-of-work administrative assistant. Paula Chapman has spent the last two years unemployed but found a new calling as a small-business owner when she acquired Well Played Mouthguards. ?Big learning curve,? Chapman said. ?I was always the person who the boss would say this and I?d say, OK. Now, it?s like I?m the boss and I have to make that decision.? The custom-fit mouth guard company, which is run out of her Auburn home, provides a form-fitting mouth piece that is on par with what professional players wear at a fraction of the price. The mouth pieces are also a dramatic step up from the old-fashioned boil-and-bite mouth pieces that have proven to be ineffective in concussion prevention, according to studies. Bite-and-boil mouth pieces are easily purchased at sporting goods store for as little as $1. But over-the-counter mouth pieces typically don?t fit correctly and an American Dental Association study showed that they can wear significantly during the fitting process, which provides less protection. Bite-and-boil guards also may not cover the back teeth completely and could cause tooth fractures upon impact, to a report by Dr. Bill Blair, the current president of the NHL Team Dentists Association. Custom-fit mouth guards, on the other hand, start with a trip to your dentist, which will take a mold of your mouth with special putty. Well Played Mouthguards, which claims to the be only manufacturer of these mouth pieces in Northern California, then takes the mold and forms the mouth piece to your teeth using a high-impact, pressure-laminated material. The entire process takes three to five days. Youth sports, which take continuous hard hits, will take up a lighter version of the guard while mixed-martial arts fighters and professional football players would use a 5-millimeter thick guard to absorb impact. Additionally, the guard is molded around your teeth, which means the guard won?t pop off during big hits. Athletes can also talk and drink water without ever removing the guard. ?Ideally the person to start these would be somebody just starting playing,? said Chapman, whose husband, Mike, was a dental technician for more than 40 years. ?Because then it?s part of their uniform and they never don?t use it.? The ADA recommends use of mouth guards in a wide variety of sports, including non-contact sports like baseball, softball and basketball. Aside from direct hits to the head, concussions can be caused through a reverberation that begins in the jaw. Some newer helmets have extended down the jaw to protect the area, but mouth pieces are the last line of defense for the jaw. Chapman started the business in January after she bought the equipment from her son in Texas. She took an online class to learn the process and went through some trial and error before she perfected the process. In just six months, Chapman has made about 165 mouth guards including a line for the professional fighters at Auburn Martial Arts Center. ?Bottom line, they?re worth it and if that?s your profession you want to have the very best equipment possible,? said Dan Lovas, owner of Auburn Martial Arts Center. They come in a variety of colors and can even display team or business logos. Prices start at $40. Chapman said she has shopped her services around to local high schools but hasn?t heard anything thus far. But with the added emphasis on concussion management in a wake of injuries in the NFL, she is hopeful that teams will consider custom-fit mouth pieces. ?I want the best for the athletes that are here,? Chapman said. ?Concussions scare me when I see these athletes that are my age. I remember when our athletes played with nothing to protect them and I see Alzheimer?s and concussions and it just scares me.? For more information, go to Wellplayedmouthguards.com.