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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Building a Better Athletic Mouth Guard

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MINIMAL teams up with a Beverly Hills dentist to create an alternative to the traditional "boil and bite" guard.

If you played sports as a kid—or have a kid who plays sports—you're probably familiar with the cheap, ubiquitous and not terribly effective "boil and bite" mouth guards sold at most sporting-goods stores. Scott Wilson was certainly familiar with them—he remembers watching his daughter struggle to mold one in preparation for lacrosse season, with tears of frustration running down her face. "I was like, 'Okay, there has to be a better way to do this,'" says Wilson, who is the founder and CEO of the Chicago design firm MINIMAL.

So when Dr. David Frey, DDS, reached out saying he had an idea for a better mouth guard, Wilson was intrigued, and agreed to a meeting with the Beverly Hills dentist in late 2013. Frey had been using a silicone impression material called PVS in his dental practice, and wondered what would happen if the same material was used to create a mouth guard. "He had the dental putty and we made a rough prototype right there, to prove how fast it could set up—and how it could be used for protection in terms of flexibility, stamina, strength," Wilson says.

Wilson brought the idea back to his team in Chicago, where they agreed that it would be a good fit for MINIMAL's "design venture" bucket, a series of projects where the company takes an equity stake in return for providing design and development at a discounted rate. "We had to think about the opportunity, look at the market and assess the feasibility and viability," Wilson says. "We realized that the mouth-guard industry was ripe for disruption."

Sketches of potential mouth-guard configurations
The team jumped right into rough prototypes. "It's one of those things where it's so dependent on materials and the process that you have to get your hands dirty pretty quick—even before sketching," says Kyle Buzzard, a design director at MINIMAL. "When we started, we weren't really sure what the putty material's capabilities would be."

Early on, the team discovered that the dental putty lacked a lot of the qualities needed to make a durable mouth guard. "It was too brittle," Wilson says. "We needed something longer lasting that could mold to your teeth and could be spongy enough for impact testing as well." Designed for temporary impressions at the dentist's office, the putty needed to be engineered to live in the mouth long-term, especially in high-impact conditions. "We had to go out and find a supplier that was willing to work with us, who believed in the project enough to experiment and try things out," Wilson says.

MINIMAL ultimately worked with a PVS silicone manufacturer and its factory's chemical engineers to modify the base material and create a range formulations—seeking an ideal consistency with a quick set time as well as the perfect viscosity for flowing through the mouth guard. "It was a lot of back and forth with the factory to really nail all of those properties," Buzzard says.

The final product—called ZONE, and available exclusively at Dick's Sporting Goods—comes with two containers of putty, a base and a catalyst, which are kneaded together by the user. (Each putty has its own color, making it easy to see when they're fully mixed.) From there, the user rolls the putty into a tube shape, places it in a plastic frame and bites into it—holding that position for a couple minutes until the material sets.

Making this system user-friendly required negotiating a number of tricky issues—for instance, determining the perfect amount of putty. "If it's too much, it just squirts out of the back or the top," Wilson says. "And then if there's not enough, it doesn't create a good lock around the teeth and doesn't protect you well enough."
The frame itself posed its own set of challenges. Designed to be a universal fit, Wilson also wanted the mouth guard to have lots of organic curves—a nightmare for most CAD programs. "A lot of the mouth guards on the market are very mechanical looking, very rigid and blocky," Wilson says. "We were going for a form factor that was a little bit more appropriate for a human mouth to use. That challenge alone, from a geometry integration [standpoint] and from a CAD standpoint, made it difficult to use traditional CAD tools. We ended up really leveraging Autodesk's T-Splines, a polygonal modeling software plugin for Rhino."

MINIMAL worked with local shop Designcraft to create high-fidelity prototypes and cast urethane molds for models from those files. Those prototypes were what Wilson and his team brought to the team at Dick's Sporting Goods, which led to the exclusive licensing deal.

User testing was an integral part of every stage of the process, with most of the team at MINIMAL taking on the brunt of the work themselves during the earliest stages. "We were advised actually not to put the 3D-printed material in our mouths, but at this point there aren't any FDA-safe 3D-printing materials that we could find or easily use," Wilson says. Buzzard adds that for the majority of the next four or five months during that phase, he could be found at his desk with a mouth guard in while doing CAD work. "Really kept me focused," he says.

The final frame was injection molded with a clear, FDA-food-safe UVA plastic, allowing for UV light to reach even the deepest corners of the mouth guard. "UV light naturally kills bacteria, so a clear frame is good for eliminating any kind of nasty things," Buzzard says. Once MINIMAL reached a final design, Dick's took the reins and brought the product through to mass-manufacturing—working with MINIMAL's putty vendor in the U.S. and outsourcing the plastic frame overseas.

The ZONE mouth guard is designed to last one season—and each ZONE comes with a $15,000 dental insurance guarantee, which seems like a pretty good value for something that can be bought off the shelf for $20.
http://www.core77.com/posts/41345/Bu...tinued_reading

Its an attempt to produce a superior & professional alternative to boil and bite mouthguards that people can pick up for $20.

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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 07:15 PM
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I know mouthguards are mainly used for dental protection, but I would be curious to know how their shock absorption compares to other types.

I personally used a custom fitted top/bottom mouthguard created by my dentist. If I remember right, the total cost was about $150. I switched from the boil & bite guard after I had some expensive dental work done in my late 20s. $150 seems cheap after you thousands on expensive dental work.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Trix View Post
http://www.core77.com/posts/41345/Bu...tinued_reading

Its an attempt to produce a superior & professional alternative to boil and bite mouthguards that people can pick up for $20.
It's not really a new idea actually. I've seen 2 component filling mass mouthguards a long time ago. The problem is still that the frame doesn't change size or form, so it does NOT fit perfectly if you don't happen to have exactly the perfect shape of teeth/jaw which 99% of the population don't have.

For competitive combat sports or even just heavy sparring, I'd strongly recommend custom made multi-layer mouthguards. It fits much better, protects better and you can breath better. If you spend 80 bucks for decent boxing gloves, another 80 for MMA gloves, another 80 for shinguards, another 80 for head gear, probably another 150-200 for clothes (rashguard, shorts, Gi etc.), 50-100 or more on monthly gym fees - why then go for a cheap mouthguard¿ Teeth are one of the bodyparts that once broken don't heal.

http://www.erkodent.com/dental/downl.../PS_fly_EN.pdf
http://www.erkodent.com/dental/html_...heavy_pro.html

Including positive model of your teeth/jaw it cost about $200 and fits so tight you can't get it out of your mouth without using your fingers. I'm sure you can find something similar in the US.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-01-2016, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
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Should mention it costs $20 and comes with a $15,000 dental insurance guarantee.

From the article it seems like they put a decent amount of time and effort into coming up with a decent product, although I can't say I've tried it, or have any clue as to how good or bad it is.

It probably won't be as good as a more expensive professional product but for those who don't have the money to afford a custom mouthpiece maybe it wouldn't be too bad? I don't know, I just posted it thinking maybe it would have a niche somewhere in the low end market and represent some kind of progress over the old boil and bite variety.

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-02-2016, 12:50 PM
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Should mention it costs $20 and comes with a $15,000 dental insurance guarantee.
Have you seen the waranty¿ Other mouthguard companies have similar insurance guarantees they make advertisement with. But if you read the actual waranty it usually says you get $200-500 per tooth, which may be added up to a maximum of $10,000 (or whatever the sum). One broken tooth is usually more expensive than that what you get.

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From the article it seems like they put a decent amount of time and effort into coming up with a decent product, although I can't say I've tried it, or have any clue as to how good or bad it is.
That article is basically just an advertisement. Of course they try to tell how much "research" is behind the product.

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It probably won't be as good as a more expensive professional product but for those who don't have the money to afford a custom mouthpiece maybe it wouldn't be too bad? I don't know, I just posted it thinking maybe it would have a niche somewhere in the low end market and represent some kind of progress over the old boil and bite variety.
Of course, any mouthguard is better than none. But as I said, because of the "one size fits all"-approach for the frame, I'm not sure, whether it's actually better fitting and more comfortable in your mouth than a good boil and bite which at least follows the form of your teeth/jaw overall.

And as I said, people usually spend hundreds of dollars for gear and clothing, but often they try to safe money on the mouthguard, while there damage is actually permanent.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-02-2016, 01:00 PM
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"one size fits all" is why i have gone through to many mouth guards... if i can't slice them down to size for my tiny 10yr old girl sized mouth, then its useless. Its why for years i have been using a shitty £5 boil and bite... basically just a bit of rubber.

Never lost any teeth though... and my defense is kinda shit, i have had some jaw pain, up near the joint area... always wonder if that is from taking a shot with my mouth open, or due to the bad mouthpiece.

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-02-2016, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Joabbuac View Post
"one size fits all" is why i have gone through to many mouth guards... if i can't slice them down to size for my tiny 10yr old girl sized mouth, then its useless. Its why for years i have been using a shitty £5 boil and bite... basically just a bit of rubber.

Never lost any teeth though... and my defense is kinda shit, i have had some jaw pain, up near the joint area... always wonder if that is from taking a shot with my mouth open, or due to the bad mouthpiece.
My one's a fiver boil and bite too.

Is that the only time you've got jaw pain near the joint? Cause if so...your defence isn't shit haha. If you get caught with a clean one with your mouth opened, your jaw gets knocked off "track" and the ache is up at the corner where you took the shot from. Had it a few times in my life mostly taking punches as a kid from my big brother, but a few nasty ones in martial arts (specifically when I did karate) happened. Worst was when I got caught with a spinning hook kick once. Caught clean on the jaw after gassing so mouth was wide opened, never saw it coming. Teeth were miles off line for a week.



Thanks to Ape for the sig.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-02-2016, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by ClydebankBlitz View Post
My one's a fiver boil and bite too.

Is that the only time you've got jaw pain near the joint? Cause if so...your defence isn't shit haha. If you get caught with a clean one with your mouth opened, your jaw gets knocked off "track" and the ache is up at the corner where you took the shot from. Had it a few times in my life mostly taking punches as a kid from my big brother, but a few nasty ones in martial arts (specifically when I did karate) happened. Worst was when I got caught with a spinning hook kick once. Caught clean on the jaw after gassing so mouth was wide opened, never saw it coming. Teeth were miles off line for a week.
Yeah that is what exactly i mean, in the corner... near the ear... its horrible, eating hurts too, feels like i can't clench my teeth straight for a few days. Happened countless times... Using nasal spray helps me, clears my nose out so i can breath through it better... less need to hang my mouth open.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-02-2016, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Joabbuac View Post
Yeah that is what exactly i mean, in the corner... near the ear... its horrible, eating hurts too, feels like i can't clench my teeth straight for a few days. Happened countless times... Using nasal spray helps me, clears my nose out so i can breath through it better... less need to hang my mouth open.
I thought you meant it only happened the one time and I was like "Is he kidding? I don't spar anything like what he does and even I've got it loads of times in my life" haha.

Worst one I ever got was surprisingly just a jab. I had only been in karate say for 3 months, first ever martial arts class and really first exercise since becoming a teenager. I was probably 19 at the time or something. So sparring was fairly hard for me and I'd be absolutely knackered when doing it. No muscle memory or anything. Mouth wide opened, I lunch forward to fake a shot and get caught with a jab that just cracks me a beast right on the side of the chin.

Now I'm not too bad. Again, I don't have the workout you do so it could change if I was to go to proper sparring. I think I've got a bit of practise in though that I might be able to keep my jaw shut for the duration, even when I'm absolutely out on my feet, but I guess I don't know until I do it. I HATED mouth guards anyways. Now with it being light contact we don't need them but in karate, when you're shattered the mouth guard (at least boil and bite) is so ridiculously restrictive of your breathing.



Thanks to Ape for the sig.
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