"The home of hometown heroes"

By Mike Hastings

When Phil Wenk was in high school, he played a lot of contact sports, including football, baseball and soccer.  His father, a dentist, stressed the importance of protecting his teeth by always wearing a mouth guard.

Today, Dr. Phil Wenk, a dentist himself, is president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee.  Not only does he still remember those words of wisdom from his father, he is sharing them with tens of thousands of young athletes and helping make a difference in their lives.

 “As we go out into the different communities I always tell them if you need mouth pieces, just tell us and we will get them to you,” Dr. Wenk said.

And he has.  Through various organizations, Delta Dental of Tennessee has handed out more than 100,000 mouth guards to area youth, including hundreds just this week to local football teams the Bellevue Steelers and Nashville Eagles.

Thanks to this effort, the odds are much better that Bellevue children will avoid mouth injuries.

According to the American Dental Association, roughly 10-20 percent of all sports-related injuries are maxillofacial injuries. Additionally, the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety says an athlete is 60 times more likely to experience damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouth guard.

“With these figures so high and these injuries so easily prevented, we recommend all athletes take measures to prevent such injuries by wearing a mouth guard,” Dr. Wenk said.

“Athletes aren’t fully suited up unless they have their mouth guard in place.”

Making sure that local youth understood the importance of preventing mouth injuries, and then getting  the mouth guards to them at no cost, was originally suggested in a meeting with the Nashville Predators, by one of their interns.

What resulted was the “Protect Your Fangs” program.  Delta Dental contributed more than 75,000 mouth guards.

“The importance of wearing an athletic mouth guard goes beyond the preservation of your smile,” Nashville Predators Alumni and broadcaster Stu Grimson said at that time. 

“Hockey is a physical and fast-moving game where there is always a risk of injury to the head and mouth. A good-quality properly-fitted mouth guard – which can prevent brain injuries, loss of consciousness, neck injuries, and even jaw fractures – is smart protection for any player.”

In recent years, Delta Dental has partnered with the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.  Through that organization, local youth programs are identified and then provided with free mouth guards.

“They go into Kentucky, Alabama and all of Tennessee to support different football organizations,” Dr. Wenk said.

And though football and hockey are two sports that you would normally think of when talking about wearing mouth guards, Dr. Wenk recommends athletes in any sport should consider wearing one.

“Any sport where you have the potential to take a shot in the mouth, you ought to wear a mouth piece,” he said.

But nearly seven out of 10 Americans (68 percent) report that their child does not wear a mouth guard at soccer, basketball, baseball and softball practices or games. And studies show that today’s basketball players are actually far more likely than football players to sustain an mouth injury.

Dr. Wenk says parents need to encourage their young athletes to get in the habit of wearing mouth guards whenever they participate in sports, whether it’s for practice or a game.  

So thank you to Delta Dental.  Because of your efforts, more of our Bellevue children will come home from their games, injury free and those beautiful smiles still intact.

Delta Dental Insuring Youth Teams Smiles