"We like our students to become involved in hands-on projects like this because they not only get the technical experience, but also get a chance to see what it's like to become involved in community service," said Trudy Palmateer, chair of the Dental Hygiene Program at Owens.
The dental hygiene students volunteered their time on a recent evening for three hours to participate in the project, held in the Dental Hygiene Clinic at Owens Community College. Dr. Larry Schmakel, a Toledo dentist, and his staff donated their time to oversee their work. The project was co-sponsored by the Toledo Dental Society.
Members of the Lady Express basketball team first viewed a video on the benefits of wearing mouthguards and then impressions of their mouths were taken. Palmateer explained that the dental hygiene students poured and processed the mouthguards, which are made of a plastic/ acrylic material, and cut them to fit each of the women.
Athletes can buy already-made mouthguards, but custom-made appliances fit much better, according to Dr. Schmakel.
The athletic mouthguard prevents dental injuries and mouth injuries, such as broken or lost teeth. "It cushions their teeth, especially when they're jarred or hit with an elbow or knee," he said.
The mouthguard also can minimize concussions by 50 percent, Dr. Schmakel explained. Concussions often are caused by the force of the jaws coming together and jarring the head. A cushion between reduces that stress, he said.
Dr. Schmakel, who is a consultant on sports dentistry to the Ohio Dental Association and a member of the Academy for Sports Dentistry, encouraged the idea of making the mouthguards for the Express athletes
Many sports require a mouthguard to be worn - but not college basketball, said Schmakel, who also is a former high school basketball referee and now a referee for college games in the Midwestern College Conference and the Mid-American Conference.
He has seen firsthand how many basketball players accidentally are hit in the face. "Basketball can be a very rough sport. The athletic mouthguard is a very inexpensive insurance policy," he said.
Head Coach Bill Gomoluch said he and his team are quite appreciative to be part of the project. "I know the players are really thankful they were offered the mouthguards," Gomoluch said. "I know the women have found them valuable and they've worked out well."
The Owens Community College dental hygiene students who participated in the mouthguard program are: Joy Bacon of Bryan, Tamara Benedict of Milbury, Angel Blank and Melinda Walker of Greenwich, Jackie Brown of Leipsic, Carrie Nehls of Fremont, Jane Roth of Walbridge, Cheffyl Salenbein of Dundee, and Jessica Bussell, Brandy Davidson, Rebecca Albach, Eva Anderson, Stephanie Birtsas, Jill Gardner, Jennifer High, Kathleen Pugh, Ryan Snodgrass and Tiffany Turner, all of Toledo. Assistant professor Jayne Klett of Elmore also participated in the project.
The Dental Hygiene Program at Owens offers a Dental Hygiene Clinic four days each week from September through May. The 20-chair clinic, open to adults and children, is supervised by licensed dental hygienists and dentists. Owens students participating in the clinic have had extensive education prior to their clinical experience. The Clinic is an opportunity for members of the community to receive safe, quality dental services at a reasonable cost.
Palmateer said the dental hygiene students told her they enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the community service project and were glad to be able to contribute to the basketball program.
"When the students volunteer their time for a worthwhile project, they feel good about themselves. Then we hope they'll be willing to continue to participate in community service as they pursue their careers as dental hygienists in the workplace," she said.