By age 19, my brother already had two root canals. His oral injuries started with tripping while racing a friend in elementary school. After chipping his tooth and getting a crown, he continually knocked the crown off while playing sports from basketball to golf. If my brother dealt with such orofacial injuries through sports that don’t require players to wear mouthguards, imagine what type of dental injuries football players faced. Thinking about his injuries and knowing I wanted to give back to my community lead me to brainstorm about how to help the Salisbury High School football team, my alma mater. I remembered many friends who complained about the bulky mouthguards they were forced to wear and how difficult they were to breathe in. After talking with a local dentist, I developed a plan to get custom-fit mouthguards for the football team, in place of the uncomfortable boil-and-bite mouthguards they traditionally used.
I worked with the dentist to contact Patterson Dental Company to get supplies for the project. Thanks to the generosity of Patterson and the dentist, I was able to get everything needed to make the mouthguards. The players were ecstatic with the finished products; especially after many had to undergo multiple impressions to get a good mouth model. In total, we were able to fit 50 of the 57 players on the roster.
For anyone looking for a dental-related community service project, try reaching out to local dentists for their advice. The dentist I worked with was happy to help and extremely supportive, while still allowing me to lead the project. It’s also important to create a detailed project plan early on with schedules, participant roles, supply lists, etc. so everyone is on the same page. Salisbury High is located in an underserved community, where players oftentimes can’t afford better protective equipment, nor the dental work an orofacial injury would require. I was highly involved in athletics while at Salisbury High so I knew players there would benefit from a service project such as this one. My last piece of advice is to find a cause you are passionate about. If you can do that, it will be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
~ Katelyn Storey, North Carolina '17