Why NBA Players Wear Mouthguards? Explained

Jimmy Remland
By Jimmy Remland 9 Min Read
9 Min Read

Mouthguards have become a common sight in the NBA, with many players opting to wear them during games. This article explores the reasons behind this practice, the benefits, and some potential drawbacks, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of why NBA players wear mouthguards.

Why NBA Players Wear Mouthguards? The Reasons

Protection Against Dental Injuries

NBA players wear mouthguards primarily to protect their teeth from injuries. Basketball is a high-contact sport, and collisions are frequent. Mouthguards help prevent chipped, broken, or knocked-out teeth, which are common injuries on the court​​.

Reducing the Risk of Concussions

Mouthguards also play a crucial role in reducing the risk of concussions. By absorbing and dispersing the impact from blows to the face, they help minimize the chances of a concussion. Studies have shown that wearing a mouthguard can reduce the risk of concussion by about 50%​.

Benefits of Wearing Mouthguards

  • Protection for Teeth and Gums: Mouthguards provide a cushioning effect, protecting the teeth and gums from the impact of falls or collisions.
  • Prevention of Lip and Mouth Injuries: They help prevent cuts and bruises inside the mouth.
  • Enhanced Performance: Some players find that the protection offered by mouthguards allows them to play more confidently and aggressively, knowing they are less likely to sustain a dental injury.

Custom vs. Generic Mouthguards

There are two main types of mouthguards: custom-fitted and generic boil-and-bite. Custom-fitted mouthguards, made by dentists, offer a more comfortable and secure fit, providing better protection than generic ones. Many NBA players prefer custom mouthguards for their superior fit and comfort​​.

Notable NBA Players Who Wear Mouthguards

Several prominent NBA players are known for wearing mouthguards:

  • LeBron James: LeBron has been wearing a mouthguard since high school, recognizing its importance in protecting his teeth.
  • Stephen Curry: Curry is often seen chewing on his mouthguard during games. He wears it to avoid dental injuries and maintain his oral health.
  • Russell Westbrook: Known for his aggressive playing style, Westbrook wears a mouthguard to protect himself from potential collisions​.


Drawbacks of Wearing Mouthguards

While mouthguards offer significant benefits, some players choose not to wear them due to the following reasons:

  • Comfort Issues: Some players find mouthguards uncomfortable, particularly if they are not custom-fitted. They may also feel bulky and interfere with breathing.
  • Communication Barriers: Mouthguards can make it difficult to communicate on the court, muffling speech and making it harder to call plays or give instructions.
  • Cost: Custom-fitted mouthguards can be expensive, and frequent replacements due to wear and tear add to the cost​.

NBA Guidelines and Team Policies

The NBA does not mandate the use of mouthguards, leaving the decision to the players. However, some teams have their own policies requiring players to wear mouthguards during practices or games to minimize injury risks​​.

How to Choose the Right Mouthguard

When selecting a mouthguard, consider the following factors:

  • Fit: Ensure the mouthguard fits snugly and comfortably over your teeth.
  • Protection Level: Choose a mouthguard that offers adequate protection for your style of play.
  • Ease of Maintenance: Look for mouthguards that are easy to clean and maintain.

Caring for Your Mouthguard

To extend the lifespan of your mouthguard and ensure it remains effective:

  • Rinse it with cold water before and after use.
  • Clean it with mild soap and water weekly.
  • Store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Regularly inspect for signs of wear and tear and replace it as needed​​.

The History and Evolution of Mouthguards in the NBA

Early Adoption and Evolution

The use of mouthguards in basketball dates back several decades. Initially, they were not common, but as the understanding of sports-related injuries grew, so did the adoption of protective gear like mouthguards. Early models were simple and less comfortable, which contributed to their slow uptake among players. Over time, advancements in materials and design led to more comfortable and effective mouthguards, making them more popular among NBA players.

The Role of Dental Professionals

Recommendations and Customization

Dentists play a crucial role in promoting the use of mouthguards. They recommend custom-fitted mouthguards for better protection and comfort. Custom mouthguards are made using impressions of the player’s teeth, ensuring a precise fit. This customization not only improves comfort but also enhances the effectiveness of the mouthguard in preventing injuries​​.

Case Studies and Statistics

Research supports the use of mouthguards in reducing dental injuries. For instance, a study found that athletes who did not wear mouthguards were 60 times more likely to suffer dental injuries than those who did. Such compelling statistics highlight the importance of mouthguards in sports.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Myth: Mouthguards are Uncomfortable and Bulky

While some players may find mouthguards uncomfortable, especially if they are not custom-fitted, modern designs have addressed many of these concerns. Custom mouthguards are specifically tailored to fit comfortably and securely, reducing the bulkiness and discomfort associated with generic models​.

Myth: Mouthguards Hinder Performance

Another common misconception is that mouthguards hinder performance by affecting breathing or speech. However, advancements in design have minimized these issues. Modern mouthguards are designed to allow easy breathing and communication, ensuring players can perform at their best while staying protected.

The Impact of Mouthguards on Player Performance

Psychological Benefits

Beyond physical protection, wearing a mouthguard can have psychological benefits. Knowing they are protected can boost players’ confidence, allowing them to play more aggressively and freely. This psychological edge can translate into better performance on the court​​.

Case Examples

Players like Stephen Curry and LeBron James exemplify how mouthguards can be integrated into high-level performance without hindrance. Their consistent use of mouthguards throughout their careers demonstrates that protection does not come at the expense of performance​​.

Smart Mouthguards

The future of mouthguards lies in technological advancements. Smart mouthguards equipped with sensors to monitor impact forces and track data in real-time are being developed. These innovations could revolutionize player safety by providing immediate feedback on potential injuries, allowing for timely medical intervention​.

Sustainable Materials

As sustainability becomes a more pressing concern, mouthguard manufacturers are exploring eco-friendly materials. These materials aim to reduce the environmental impact while maintaining the high standards of protection and comfort required by athletes​​.

Final Words

Mouthguards have become an essential piece of equipment for NBA players, providing crucial protection against dental injuries and concussions. While there are some drawbacks, the benefits far outweigh them, making mouthguards a valuable asset for player safety. The evolution of mouthguard technology continues to enhance their effectiveness and comfort, ensuring that players can focus on their performance without compromising their health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are NBA players required to wear mouthguards?

No, NBA players are not required to wear mouthguards. The decision is left to individual players or teams, though it is highly recommended for safety​​.

Why does Steph Curry chew his mouthguard?

Steph Curry chews his mouthguard as a habit developed over time. It helps him focus and stay calm during games​.

Does LeBron James wear a mouthguard?

Yes, LeBron James wears a mouthguard to protect his teeth from potential injuries during games​​.

What percentage of NBA players wear mouthguards?

Approximately 80% of NBA players wear mouthguards, despite the lack of a league mandate​​.

Does Kevin Durant wear a mouthguard?

Yes, Kevin Durant wears a mouthguard to protect his teeth during games​.

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