News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 13, 2014
Parents question DIS elementary school mouth guard policy

Parents discuss mouth guard policy at CSD school board meeting

Parents of middle school athletes attended the February 4 school board meeting to discuss the mouth guard policy for basketball.

Photo by Jessica Brophy Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Jessica Brophy

More than a dozen parents and elementary school students attended the CSD #13 school board meeting on Tuesday, February 4, to discuss the elementary school’s mouth guard policy for basketball players.

The current policy is that students are required to wear mouth guards during play and practice.

Several parents complained about problems with the use of mouth guards and asked for changes to the policy.

Christie Hutchinson, player parent and wife of basketball coach Chris Hutchinson, said there are a lot of problems with the use of mouth guards, including asthmatic students having trouble “breathing consistently,” students having to take them out to yell plays, the finances of having to buy and replace the guards as students forget or lose them, and the issue of germs. She said she also worries about students swallowing pieces of the mouth guards.

Parent Tara Perez said the primary care office she works for recommends against using mouth guards at the elementary level because of the issue of germs—students touching the ball, touching the mouth guard, dropping the mouth guard on the ground and putting it back in their mouth. “We have seen some cases of flu in this area,” she said.

Elementary school teacher and Athletic Director Josh Frost said part of the frustration is that the mouth guard policy is not being “enforced at the next level”—that is, high school players are not always required to wear mouth guards, though the policy is in effect for the entire school system. “If it were enforced K-12, it would be less of an issue,” said Frost. High school principal Todd West said that the policy is enforced, but that it’s not always a top priority.

In terms of the mouth guards themselves, the school has them for sale for $1 apiece. Frost said he has gone through about 150 over the course of the season.

Chris Hutchinson said he did not see other area schools requiring students to wear mouth guards. “I’ve played a lot of basketball, and I’ve never seen anyone lose a tooth,” he said.

Parent Liz Perez asked if parents could sign a waiver so their student could go without a mouth guard. Superintendent Mark Jenkins explained that according to the school’s insurance, if it’s important enough to have a policy, it would be considered negligent to allow some students not to wear them. “It’s all or nothing,” said Jenkins.

Wendy Alpaugh, a dentist at Island Dental, arrived late in the meeting to give her perspective on the use of mouth guards. It was at her urging several years ago the policy was implemented.

“It’s such a simple thing, and can save people a lifetime of dental horrors and pain,” said Alpaugh, who said she has seen many oral sports injuries in her career. Lacerations to lips, tongues, gums as well as lost teeth can be avoided with mouth guard use, she said.

Island Dental can create custom mouth guards for students, and does, at a cost of $15 or $16 apiece, said Alpaugh. That cost does not cover the dental office’s costs to produce them. “That seems like cheap insurance considering it can cost $4,000 for an implant if you lose a tooth,” said Alpaugh.

“I wish more parents would think preventively,” she said.

The board charged the policy committee with reviewing the policy and making a recommendation on the issue for the next school board meeting, when any change to the policy might be discussed. That meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the high school.

The school board’s other business will be reported in a future issue of the Island Ad-Vantages.