The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Jul. 29, 2021

VW dentist makes mouthguards for team

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

When Dr. Robert Laing returned to Van Wert after graduating from the Ohio State School of Dentistry in 2020, he became the fourth generation of a dental practice that was started by his great-grandfather in 1932, and has also included his grandfather, Robert, and father, Kevin. 

A staff member from Laing Family Dentistry places a soft mold into a football player’s mouth. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

However, coming back to Van Wert in the midst of a pandemic meant he couldn’t invite a bunch of people in to mark his joining the practice.

This year, though, with COVID regulations relaxing as people began to be vaccinated and virus cases dwindled, Laing began thinking about what he could do to let people know he was now a local dentist, and, more importantly, give back to the community where he was raised and the school he attended and graduated from in 2012. 

He immediately thought of one of the first projects he did as a dentistry student at Ohio State, where students were shown how to make an athletic mouthguard for themselves. The project has a twofold aim: having dental students make athletic mouthguards teaches them new skills, which comes in handy later because the School of Dentistry is tasked with making mouthguards for all of the Buckeyes’ athletic programs.

The project was also a pleasant surprise for Laing, who said he had never worn a custom-made mouthguard when he played football at VWHS, so he didn’t realize how comfortable they were.

“I just used the same ‘boil and bite” Walmart mouthguards everybody else used, and my father was a dentist,” Laing said, while noting the new mouthguard he made was so comfortable he even wore it at night to keep him from grinding his teeth while he slept.

He also remembered that a fellow dental school grad had done a similar project for high school athletes when he returned to his hometown to practice, and how cool Laing thought that was. That’s when he decided he would make mouthguards for the Cougar football team.

The finished mold will result in a custom-fit mouthguard.

“When I was going to school here I always thought: ‘wouldn’t it be cool when I move back if I could do something for the school’,” Laing said, “so this was, like, the perfect way I could contribute to the local school, the local teams.”

Laing then contacted VWHS football Head Coach Keith Recker to run the idea past him, noting that, according to a study commissioned by the American Dental Association, custom-made mouthguards are not only more comfortable than store-bought ones, but decrease the number of concussions by a third or more, increase the amount of oxygen flow during exercise, and make it easier for athletes to communicate, because they’re significantly smaller than the “Walmart specials.”

After getting the go-ahead from Coach Recker, Dr. Laing and his staff spent Wednesday — the dental practice’s day off — fitting football players with custom-made mouthguards. 

“We’re doing this all for free; the school is not paying anything, the guys are not paying anything,” the local dentist said. “I walked down these hallways; it just feels right, it just feels like something I always wanted to do.”

Dr. Laing said the project was more personal than just making a monetary donation to the school or athletic programs.

“It’s just a nice thing I can do to contribute, instead of just giving money to something, (and) I can use the skills I learned,” he said.

POSTED: 07/21/21 at 11:15 pm. FILED UNDER: News