Why NBA Players Wear Mouthguards – The Real Reasons

You’ve seen NBA players playing with their mouthguards while they’re taking breathers. Also called a gumshield, these NBA players wear mouthguards to prevent damage to the oral cavity.

A mouthguard is a protective orthodontic tool that helps absorb impact to the mouth, gums, and teeth. Without this piece of equipment, a player can feel more pain than normal when the area around the oral cavity is hit. Mouthguards can also prevent bleeding gums and broken teeth during intense basketball games.

Is it illegal to wear mouthguards in the NBA? What are these tools made of? Also, what are the steps to clean a mouthguard? You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for the answers to these questions. Continue reading and you’ll see the answers to these queries.

NBA Players Mouthguards

Most mouthguards, even those that NBA players use, come from one of two primary materials: thermopolymer and EVA foam.

Since the 1960s, many manufacturers use EVA foam for standard mouthguards. Also known as elastomer polymer, this substance is soft and flexible. Plus, it contains rubber-like properties so users won’t strain their mouths and teeth while biting into the tool.

However, mouthguards made from EVA foam are too soft. Therefore, it can’t absorb a significant amount of force from an impact.

To give you an idea of how EVA mouthguards work, think of a bowling ball dropping on a mattress. The mattress will still cave inwards, allowing the bowling ball to touch and damage the frame. Thus, if an NBA player receives an elbow to his face while he’s using an EVA mouthguard, most of the impact of the strike will still reach his gums and teeth.

Over the years, dental and oral technology has been kind to athletes that are searching for better and safer ways to protect their mouths, gums, and teeth. Thus, many of today’s mouthguard manufacturers use a non-compressible thermopolymer material instead of EVA foam.

Thermopolymer mouthguards excel over their EVA counterparts in numerous ways, such as being:

What are the Types of Mouthguards Worn by NBA Players?

Mouthguards Worn by NBA Players

Mouthguards need to conform to the shape of the mouth and teeth. Otherwise, the wearer will feel serious discomfort from the tool. Thankfully, users can choose between three types of custom mouthguards, which are:

Is it Illegal to Wear Mouthguards in the NBA?

Mouthguards in the NBA

The NBA’s official rules don’t prohibit players from wearing mouthguards. Many team officials would even promote the use of these tools to prevent long-term injuries in league athletes. Still, not every NBA player wears a mouthguard because it’s still up to the athlete’s decision. Nonetheless, wearing one, despite being uncomfortable at first, can prevent accidents like lost teeth during the game. An excellent example of this importance is when Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks lost a tooth in a 2019 game. Here’s the clip of the incident:

Why do NBA Players Wear Mouthguards?

NBA Players Wear Mouthguards

Technically speaking, basketball is a non-contact sport. However, that fact doesn’t exempt players from receiving injuries, especially those athletes within the NBA. These dangers provide NBA players with two reasons to wear mouthguards.

Protect from Dental Injury

Despite being a non-contact sport, many things can happen in basketball, particularly in the NBA. The intense action between shooting, blocking, stealing, and doing any other actions in the court can increase the risks of accidents. Players can fall face-first on the floor or elbows can come flying in every direction to the faces of opposing athletes. Without a mouthguard, NBA players will most likely suffer from bleeding gums, or chipped or lost teeth.

Prevent Opposing Teams from Reading Mouths

Basketball is a physical activity, but there’s still a psychological aspect to it. Teams huddle up during halftimes or timeouts to discuss various strategies to ensure their victories. However, if opposing players know their opponents’ plans, the chances of those schemes succeeding are reduced.

Wearing mouthguards can prevent strategies from leaking to opposing players. It’s because the tool distorts the mouth’s shape, making it difficult to read its movements from afar.

Why do NBA Players Wear Clear Mouthguards?

NBA Players Wear Clear Mouthguards

The differences between wearing clear, transparent, or opaque mouthguards are minuscule at best. However, wearing clear or transparent mouthguards allows NBA players to smile with their pearly whites shown clearly. Therefore, these athletes will undoubtedly still look good in pictures taken by media and fans despite wearing the protective mouth covering.

Is it Easy to Play Basketball While Wearing a Mouthguard?

Play Basketball While Wearing a Mouthguard

For most basketball players, wearing mouthguards doesn’t impair their athletic abilities and skills. Nonetheless, first-time wearers might feel slight discomfort from the tool for a few days. The best way to remove this discomfort is to wear the mouthpiece even if it’s not in a basketball match.

Wear the mouthguard at home or work for extended periods. Also, try speaking with other people while wearing the mouthguard. Over time, it becomes easier to move and talk with the mouthpiece. Also, wear the mouthguard during basketball training sessions to get a feel of the piece during intense physical activities.

How to Clean a Mouthguard?

The mouth is a haven for bacteria. As such, it’s only natural to clean it frequently. Otherwise, you’re going to invite bad breath-inducing bacteria to your mouth. Don’t be like Stephen Curry who, at one point, said that he wears the same mouthpiece at least three or four games before cleaning the mouthpiece.

Here’s a clip of the interview to listen to what the NBA celebrity said about his oral hygiene practices:

After watching that video, you should now know the importance of cleaning mouthguards often. Thus, here are the steps to cleaning the protective mouthpiece properly:

With Toothpaste

With Soap and Water

With Mouthwash

Final Words

NBA players wear mouthguards to protect their mouths, gums, and teeth during intense basketball matches. These athletes can choose between different types of mouthguards, depending on their preferences. However, some players in the league prefer wearing clear mouthpieces to showcase their white teeth to fans and media. For more information about anything related to NBA and basketball, check out Make-Shots

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