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Why do NBA Players wear Mouthguards?

Having worn a mouthgaurd (also known as a gumshield) in rugby for many years, I have never taken the same mouth guard and worn it when I play basketball. However, a large majority of NBA players wear mouth guards.

Why do NBA players wear mouth guards? Mouthguards are worn to protect the teeth and gums. Mouth guards are worn to absorb the impact of an accidental hit to the face. Through the use of a mouth guard the risk of mouth injuries are reduced.

We have taken a look at how mouthgaurds are created for NBA players and what impact they have on the NBA.

Do NBA players wear mouthguards?

There is no rule that requires an NBA player to wear a mouthguard, the choice it totally up to the player’s decision. However, given the physicality of the NBA it makes sense to wear a mouthguard to ensure that a tooth is not lost. An example is Dallas Mavericks Dennis Smith Jr who lost a tooth during a game in 2019.

In a world of social media and selfies you want to ensure that your teeth are protected and that you don’t want a missing tooth in your smile. In a recent study it was found that:

A majority of general dentists (58%), orthodontists (81%), and pediatric dentists (76%) recommended mouthguard protection for the contact sport of basketball which presently is a non-mandated mouthguard sport . This concurs with reports in the literature that it would be beneficial for the sport of basketball to mandate mouthguard wear for its participants because of the high incidence of oral injury .

Maestrello, Christopher L., A. P. Mourino, and F. H. Farrington. “Dentists’ attitudes towards mouthguard protection.” Pediatric dentistry 21 (1999): 340-346.

How are Mouthguards made for NBA players?

As mentioned previously, I play rugby most weeks and I have always worn a gum shield. Up until a few years ago I purchased a mouth guard from a sports shop. With these types of mouth guards you place the guard into hot water until it is flexible and then mould the mouth guard to your teeth. However, when I was a teenager had braces for five years and four teeth extractions to make my teeth look reasonably straight today. Therefore, my dentist offered me a mouthguard which I wear for rugby and I could wear for basketball. The dentist is a national health service dentist and the bespoke mouth guard cost $120 (c.£90) which in my view is very good value for money.

To make a bespoke mouthguard the dentist gives your teeth an initial check up to make sure they are okay and to ensure that there is no debris lodged in the teeth. The dentist makes up what I can only call putty. It is a flexible material that is pink and tastes very clinical. The dentist puts putty around your teeth and then puts a plastic shipped c bracket under the putty in order to form the mould. The putty is left in your mouth for a minute or two just to ensure the shape is fully captured. The dentist then sends the mould off to have your teeth recreated in plaster. Your mouthguard is then created based on the plaster version of your teeth.

A nice feature of having a bespoke mouth guard is having your name put on the edge of the mouth guard, which ensures that the mouthguard should never be lost.

Why do NBA players have clear mouthguards?

In essence having clear mouth guards just makes your on court pictures look better. If a picture is taken during a game it is much nicer seeing a players teeth through a clear mouth guard rather than a black mouth guard.

How easy is it to run in a mouthguard?

It is easy to run in a mouthguard however, if you have not had experienced it before then there are a few steps which can ensure that you are used to playing with a mouthguard. Firstly. wear the mouthguard round the house so you are used to the feel of the mouthguard in your mouth. If there are any areas that rub in your mouth make sure you speak to the fitter who fitted the mouthguard.

To get used to a game situation it is best to wear the mouthguard during training. This is so you can get used to wearing the mouthguard whilst shooting and warming up. At the end of practice you will have a game like situation therefore, you can get used to the mouthguard and what it will feel like to wear a mouthguard in a game.

How to clean a mouthguard?

I personally clean my mouthguard with toothpaste and a toothbrush every time I use the mouthguard. I use a brushing action just as if I was cleaning my teeth and then I wash off any excess toothpaste with water. Steph Curry highlighted the fact that he wears the same mouthguard three or four games in a row and that his wife shouldn’t probably kiss him after games, yuk!