In 1951, Rocky Marciano's knockout punch sheared off four of Rex Layne's upper, front teeth at the gumline and sent his mouthpiece bouncing with teeth included out of the ring. [1]

The acrylic mouthguard would have been a prevalent model in early 1950s. In the 1960s, the American Dental Association started recommending the use of latex mouthguards. [2]

The boil-and-bite mouthguards which are the most used forms today are fundamentally the same design as the model popularized in the 1960s. [2]

Why would modern technology and understanding (gloves, punching, and mouthguards) make injuries like this more or less likely?

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rex_Layne#Professional_career [2]http://keystoneind.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/the-history-of-athletic-mouthguards/

  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about what if. These questions generally cannot be answered objectively. Now, there might be ways to salvage this question if you were asking for either research or examples of it happening since then. Sep 2 '14 at 6:48
  • I was worried that my original phrasing might still be too subjective. Thanks for the help and recommendations on how to improve this to better follow the expected format.
    – j.raymond
    Sep 3 '14 at 11:26
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about mouthguard technology Sep 4 '14 at 21:40
  • 3
    It is not only the mouth-guard that has changed since 1951 but also the gloves, and due to the gloves changing, how punches are thrown to the face(skull). Jan 6 '15 at 12:57

Understanding that some of this has to be subjective due to changing technology and impact/direction hits as well as gloves during the exact time period in question I think the logic behind this is stable enough to draw some conclusions.

Mouthpiece improvements between modern day and the past:

  • Specific boiling to mold to the actual teeth structure
  • More pliable yet solid substance instead of more rigid

The above two reasons are the main points. If you take football mouth guards or some less direct impacting sports that don't use the boil/fit mouth guards you see the gaps between the plastic and the teeth. Teeth are very sensitive to all sorts of things, but also they sit independent inside of gum tissue and bone. Unlike other bones in the body they are actually help together with the gum tissue and independent bonding in the mandibles for the jaw structure. They also move position over time which allows orthodontist to actually do what they do. You can't do this with other bone structures...makes it great for living/chewing, but less so for impact resistance.

Newer mouthpieces focus on preserving the structure and position of the teeth and not just preventing impact. This is critical for teeth as it adds the additional support needed that old mouthpieces didn't have. In the old days it reduced the impact power, but the mouthpiece itself pressed against teeth thus weakening the root bonding strength and allowing a much higher chance of tooth loss the more impacts that happen. With the boiled versions it fits completely with the contour of the teeth in the mouth actually helping to reduce tooth movement as well as pad the impact. That reduction in movement keeps teeth where teeth should be instead of just trying to lessen impact against the teeth.

Latex is also more spongy which absorbs rather than trying to "block" like acrylic. This by nature means less transference of impact to the teeth underneath.

In summary: Can it still happen? Yes, if you get pounded in the mouth by someone like the Russian guy in Rocky 4 you could still lose teeth...or if you get hit by a sledge hammer in the mouth.

Is it less likely to happen now? Yes, the likelihood is greatly decreased from where it was. There has also been additional glove regulations which add padding and only makes it still less likely.

  • While I understand there could be a lot of "subtle" aspects tied to techniques I think the mouthpiece, based on this answer, would account for the largest majority in defining the outcome. Knowing this, I'll keep it in mind and see about having a discussion with my Dentist.
    – j.raymond
    Sep 7 '17 at 18:40
  • I think the biggest benefit from an answer like this would be education, for any interested parents. @mutt, Thanks a ton for following up with this! This was a lot of really good information.
    – j.raymond
    Sep 7 '17 at 18:41
  • yep, sure thing.
    – mutt
    Sep 7 '17 at 20:04

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