Delta Dental of Tennessee Teams Up with Special Olympics and Pro Athletes to Encourage Kids to Wear Mouthguards

Tennessee-based coaches and youth sports league officials can order free mouthguards online through April 30 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (April 11, 2022) – Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) today launched a statewide initiative to encourage young athletes to wear mouthguards while playing sports at every age and ability level. Mouthguards help protect your teeth and stabilize your jaw, minimizing the risk of injuries to the face, yet 84% of children do not wear them while playing organized sports, according to a survey commissioned by the American Association of Orthodontists.

To make mouthguards more accessible for kids, Delta Dental is giving away free boil and bite mouthguards to coaches and youth sports league officials, which can be ordered for athletes ages 10 and under participating in organized sports leagues in Tennessee.

“As a dentist, I saw many accidents involving the mouth that could have been prevented with a mouthguard, from cuts in the mouth to tooth loss,” said Phil Wenk, CEO of Delta Dental. “A mouthguard should be as essential as the uniform.”

Delta Dental has partnered with the Special Olympics Tennessee to ensure the athletes representing Team Tennessee at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando in June train and compete with a properly fitted mouthguard.

“Special Olympics Tennessee Healthy Athletes believes that oral health care and injury prevention is critical in allowing our athletes to compete at their best level. Delta Dental of Tennessee has empowered our athletes with oral healthcare education and provided an opportunity for them to receive preventative oral hygiene kits and sports mouthguard supplies.” said Dr. Natalee Kamau, Manager of Health and Fitness at Special Olympics Tennessee. “Our local and state programs are beyond thankful for this partnership with Delta Dental of Tennessee, and their role as our Gold Sponsor for the 2022 USA Games Orlando and a continued partner in our Healthy Initiatives when it comes to dental health for individuals with intellectual disabilities.”

More than three million teeth are knocked out each year in youth sporting events. Multiple studies have found that the highest number of dental injuries occur in basketball, where mouthguards are not required. Contact sports like football and hockey where mouthguards are required offer compelling evidence that wearing one can substantially lower a player’s risk of dental injury. Since mouth and face guard requirements were implemented in high school and college football in the 1960s, the incidence of oral-facial injuries has dropped from approximately 50% to 0.5%.

“I’ve always worn a mouthpiece ever since I’ve played football since little league days,” said Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard. “When you talk about concussions in football, when you have a mouthpiece and you have something to bite down on when you’re making a tackle or you’re making a block, it decreases the chance of you having a concussion. It’s very important, so I would encourage everybody to wear a mouthpiece.”

Former NHL defenseman Hal Gill played professional hockey for 17 years, including for the Predators from 2011-2013, and currently serves as the color analyst for the team’s radio broadcasts. Gill encourages kids to make wearing a mouthguard part of their routine at a young age, noting how much his mouthguard protected him. “After 17 years in the NHL, people always ask me, ‘how many teeth have you lost?” Gill says. “I’ve only lost one, that was early on in my career. Ever since then I’ve worn a mouthguard, and I haven’t lost a tooth since. I also have never had a concussion because it became part of my routine.”

The free boil and bite mouthguards are recommended for use by youth 10 and under. The mouthguards come in two varieties: one with a strap that can be attached to a helmet, recommended for use in football and ice hockey, and one without the strap, ideal for sports like basketball, martial arts, and soccer. Coaches and league commissioners should submit a request online by here by April 30. Orders will arrive in time for fall sports seasons.

“Whether your child is starting on the varsity team or playing in their first rec league game, making sure they are wearing a mouthguard is an easy but often-forgotten way to lower their risk of getting hurt,” said Wenk. “And if your child does get a tooth knocked out, don’t panic – but do try to get to a dentist as soon as possible for evaluation.”

To read more about the different varieties of mouthguards, cleaning and care guidelines, and tips for what to do if your child does get a tooth knocked out, visit to learn more about Delta Dental’s philanthropic work across Tennessee, visit the Smile180 Foundation website.


Delta Dental of Tennessee
Delta Dental of Tennessee is the state’s largest independent dental benefits carrier with nearly 1.4 million lives covered. As part of the Delta Dental Plans Association, Delta Dental of Tennessee members have access to the largest dental network in the nation with more than 154,000 providers serving more than 437,000 locations. With the simple mission of ensuring healthy smiles, Delta Dental of Tennessee works hard to help members of the communities it serves. Along with its corporate foundation, Smile180, Delta Dental of Tennessee donated more than $5.4 million in funding and in-kind services to over 130 organizations in 2021.