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Mouthguards | Plan B | When things go wrong
January 2015

Mouthguards:

What is Plan B when things go wrong?

Several mouthguard manufacturers offer warranties that include compensation for customers who get injured when wearing their products correctly. But, there are very strict conditions to these warranties to prevent fraudulent claims, reports JOHANN DU TOIT

Amouthguard is a compulsory piece of equipment when participating in many contact sports, because it acts as a shock absorber to disperse the energy resulting from a blow to the jaw or mouth. The aim of the mouthguard is to prevent painful injuries to the teeth and jaw that can result in expensive medical and dental procedures.

An athlete can, however, become injured even though he is wearing a mouthguard.

Although no mouthguard manufacturer offers a guarantee that their product will prevent injuries, only that it will minimise the impact, customers might consider that a product worn to provide protection failed if they do get injured.

Warranties offered

In today’s increasingly “sue first, talk later” society this could result in the retailer who sold the mouthguard, or the manufacturer, being held responsible for the injury. Several mouthguard brands therefore provide warranties on upper-end products.

Opro, manufacturer of the “custom self-fit” mouthguards, for example, offer what is considered to be the most comprehensive dental warranty for self-fit mouthguards. Fox40 also guarantees that they will, under certain circumstances, compensate customers should they get injured while wearing their mouthguard.

Opro provides a limited one year warranty allowing the user to claim for costs of remedial dental treatment of up to ₤1 000 (R17 693), depending on the type of mouthguard the customer bought (see below).

Fox 40 also has a limited one year mouthguard warranty to cover the cost of professional dental services, up to $3,200 (R36 700), incurred when using the mouthguard. The warranty guarantees that the product has no defects in materials or workmanship, which could cause injury to natural teeth while wearing the mouthguard properly in an athletic contest (see Example of the Opro warranty).

Some other mouthguard brands offer also offer a warranty that their products are free of defects and that they will be replaced if any product with a defect is returned.

This, however, does not mean that a customer can claim thousands if any injury occurs while wearing the mouthguard.

It is important that customers realise that there are strict conditions to warranties before purchasing. It would be a mistake for customers to be tempted by a cheaper lower quality mouthguard just because it has a higher limit on warranty claims.

No get rich scheme

While a warranty of R50 000, as some brands are offering, may sound great, it is important to consider the fine print. It will always be better to ensure that your teeth are adequately protected, rather than assume your medical costs will be covered by the warranty. A severe mouth injury also has many non-monetary impacts such as time off of work or school, and of course the excruciating pain.

The warranties usually only cover injuries resulting directly from mouthguard defects themselves, and not from normal sports related injuries. Another common condition is that a payment won’t be made if the cost of the medical or dental procedure that is needed to fix an injury is covered by an insurance policy.

It also does not apply to any orthodontic treatments, injuries resulting from professional athletics, or injuries from participating in a sport while not wearing an approved mask or helmet. The mouthguard must also be properly fitted in order to qualify for claims. Even if an injury occurs in this event, many warranties only cover injuries resulting from manufacturing defects, and they don’t guarantee that a mouthguard will prevent an injury.

The warranties usually only cover the exact costs of medical and dental procedures, so any kind of negligence claims will not fall under the warranty. Proving negligence in court will be the only way to be compensated for non-medical costs. We could not find any case in which a manufacturer of mouthguards was accused of negligence after an injury.

Most warranties are also limited by a per-tooth cost. For example, a warranty of up to $5 000 (R56 787), is really limited to $156.25 (R1 775) per tooth. Losing all 32 teeth is the only time the manufacturer would have to pay a customer nearly R57 000, which is very unlikely.

Most warranties offer monetary compensations for injuries, but these compensations are unlikely to cover the lifetime costs of a severely injured mouth. Some American dentists have estimated that the lifetime cost of fixing a serious injury of a single tooth can be as much as $10 000 (R113 575) to $15 000 (R170 363).

Ultimately, it is up to the wearer to insure the mouthguard is fitted properly, that they use the required protective sporting equipment and that the injury occurs while playing an official sport in an official supervised sporting event.


How the Fox40 warranty works

Fox 40 also has a limited one-year mouthguard warranty from the date of purchase, guaranteeing that the product has “no defects in materials or workmanship, which could cause injury to natural teeth while wearing the mouthguard properly in an athletic contest”.

The monetary limit of the claim is $3,200 (R36 700), and Fox40 will pay $100 (R1 150) per injured tooth – provided that the injury is not covered by any other insurance policy.

The claimant must also provide independent medical evidence, from a licensed dentist, of the injury he sustained, as well as provide written verification from the athletic official present when the injury occurred. This verification and evidence must be returned to Fox40 within 30 days, together with the mouthguard that was worn.

The warranty will not be valid in cases where the wearer had received orthodontic treatment, the injured tooth had been used as an anchor for a bridge, or the injury resulted from professional athletics.

The warranty is also not valid if the injury was incurred in a hockey competition, or practice, unless worn in combination with an approved face mask and helmet.


Example of the Opro warranty

Opro says that they offer the most comprehensive warranty to compensate in case of injuries. But, the brand also clearly states that they “make no guarantee that the mouthguard will prevent any particular injury, or limit the impact of any trauma or other impact to the teeth, mouth or head.“

They do, however, tell customers that “in the unlikely event of an accidental tooth loss or injury notwithstanding your wearing your Opro, you may submit a claim toward the cost of remedial dental treatment.”

They have different warranties – mainly pertaining to the amount that may be claimed - for their Platinum and Fangz, Gold, Silver and Bronze mouthguards. The warranty for the Platinum mouthguard would, for example, cover a much higher amount than the Bronze warranty, because the higher end mouthguard was made to offer more protection.

They will, however, only pay for treatment that is not covered by any other insurance policies. The warranty will also only be valid when the mouthguard had been moulded and used strictly according to the instructions provided with the product – and the claimant should send the mouthguard worn with the claim. The warranty also only applies to newer products, not a mouthguard that is older than a year.

They also stipulate that the injury must have occurred during a supervised and official school or club sporting activity and a supervising teacher or official, like the coach, must verify the injury. Therefore, no chance of claiming for teeth knocked out in a playground fist fight.

Opro will also not pay any compensation when disease, natural conditions like ageing, intentional self-injury, or a gradual condition (like gum disease) contributed to the damages incurred. They will also not pay for the treatment of teeth that received root canal treatment before the event, had been crowned, or filled.

Authorisation must be obtained before undergoing any dental treatment that will cost more than R150 (R2 653).


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