The History of the Mouthguard
No one knows the exact origins of the mouthguard. Prior to the late 1800s, boxers were the first to use mouthguards. They made mouthguards out of cotton, tape, sponge, and even small pieces of wood (Doesn’t that sound comfortable?).
The only way they could hold the material in was by gritting their teeth. However, the boxers had a difficult time clenching the material and throwing punches at the same time.
As a result, they began seeking a new solution. In 1892, Woolf Krause, a British dentist, is typically the one credited with inventing the first mouthguard. He assisted career boxers by placing a natural rubber resin, called gutta-percha, over the teeth of boxers before they began their match.
Phillip Krause, his son, is credited with creating the first reusable mouthguard for use in a boxing match. Phillip was an amateur boxer himself, and his invention eventually gained widespread popularity when it was used in a 1921 championship fight.
However, the Krauses are not the only ones who have a claim to inventing the mouthguard. Jacob Marks also created a mouthguard in 1916, which was also later used by Dinnie O’Keefe. Thomas A. Carlos, an American dentist, also developed his own mouthguard around that time. Finally, E. Allen Franke, a Chicago dentist also claimed to have made many mouthguards for boxers during the same time period.
A 1927 boxing match between Jack Sharkey and Mike McTigue brought the mouthguard to permanent importance. McTigue had been winning the majority of the fight, but was forced to forfeit when a chipped tooth cut his lip. The boxing profession made mouthguards acceptable for use in the sport from that point on.
During the 1940s and 1950s, dental injuries caused nearly half of all football injuries. The resulting attention led to the American Dental Association promoting their health benefits to the public. In 1960, it recommended mouthguards for use in all contact sports.
The modern mouthguard, as it is used in ice hockey and other professional sports now, was developed by Arthur Wood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Wood, a children’s dentist, was appalled by the dental and facial injuries he witnessed in many of the children he served.
Mouthguards were required for use by the NCAA for football in 1973 and have since become required in collegiate ice hockey, lacrosse, and field hockey. Mouthguards have prevented many dental injuries since, and innovations in these products have helped to reduce dental injuries in professional ice hockey and many other sports.
-Dan “The Wisconsin Hockey Fan”