UW News

July 24, 2008

Making a good impression

Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering

The School of Dentistry and the UW Athletics Program kicked off a new collaboration on Wednesday, July 9, with 130 student athletes visiting UW dental clinics to be fitted for mouthguards. Sixty dental students took impressions of the athletes’ teeth as part of the process, with faculty — including Dean Martha Somerman — and staff supervising and offering hints for the best fit.

Dentistry and Athletics may not appear to be likely partners, but the pairing makes perfect sense to Dr. Nestor Cohenca, endodontics, and leader of the new partnership. In a previous life at the University of Southern California (USC), he helped launch the USC Center for Urgent Care, Trauma and Sports Dentistry. Cohenca has also published research on the incidence and severity of dental trauma in intercollegiate athletes.

What’s the aim of the new partnership? Cohenca said the goals are prevention (the use of mouthguards) and also treatment-oriented (ensuring dental care is available — both on the field and off). The School of Dentistry gains new patients, too, and the collaboration serves as an example of cooperation among UW departments. Eventually, there may be research-related opportunities and Cohenca would like to spread the word in the community about sports dentistry.

“The collaboration sends a great message to the community, and especially to children,” he said. “Parents may learn for the first time that dental injuries can be prevented by using mouthguards — which makes me think about how many teeth and young smiles we could save.”

Athletics had been making customized mouthguards for its athletes over the past seven years, said Pat Jenkins, head athletic trainer. Cohenca said the previous work was “impressive,” and that Dentistry can now implement small changes, like trimming away some of the mouthguard material to make it easier for quarterbacks and point guards to talk while wearing the devices.

Senior Ryan Perkins, a kicker for the football team, said he understands the importance of wearing a mouthguard. “Players get popped in the head, you bite down and if you don’t have a mouthguard, you can easily get a concussion or chipped teeth,” he said.