OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A local organization has launched a statewide initiative to protect young children who play sports.

Delta Dental of Oklahoma has launched a new, statewide initiative to encourage young children to wear mouth guards while playing sports.

The Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation will give away mouth guards to athletes ages 10 and under who participate in organized sports leagues in Oklahoma.

“Youth sports are tremendously beneficial for children, but they do not come without risks to a child’s smile,” said Delta Dental of Oklahoma President and CEO John Gladden. “Mouth guards are an underutilized way to lower the risk of sports injuries, including tooth loss. We hope this pilot program will help Oklahoma coaches foster regular use a mouth guard at an early age, both in practice and during games.”

Oklahoma coaches and league commissioners may submit a request online for the mouth guards. The deadline for requests is April 30, 2022, or while supplies last. Orders will be scheduled for delivery in June for summer and fall sports seasons.

“Mouthguards are a key piece of safety equipment, just like a helmet or shoulder pads,” Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation Director Terrisa Singleton said. “Wearing form-fitted mouthguards not only protects children from damaging and painful injuries, it allows them to feel confident to perform at a higher level. This program aims to help keep kids’ teeth secure and improve their long-term oral health.”

According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, more than three million teeth are knocked out each year in youth sports.