Why Do Basketball Players Wear Mouthguards?

It’s a common misconception that wearing a mouth guard is only for those who chew on hard candy or play sports like boxing where there are frequent collisions with other people’s heads.

The truth is that most athletes — especially basketball players — should be using them even if they don’t eat anything particularly tough or collide into anyone else’s head regularly.

Now you’re probably wondering…

Why on earth does a basketballer need to wear a mouthguard when they play?

Well, read on for the answer!

Basketballers wear mouthguards primarily to protect their teeth from falling and their gums from bleeding out. In addition, mouthguards absorb the shock of forceful impacts to the face and help prevent and reduce the severity of concussions associated with a hit to the face.

In addition, it prevents teeth grinding against each other, which could cause chipping, fracturing and root resorption.

Why do NBA players wear mouthguards?

There are three main reasons why basketball players need to wear a mouthguard.

We’ll now expand on them below.

1. To protect the teeth and gums

why basketball players wear mouthguards - teeth and gum protection

If you’ve ever had braces, then you know how important keeping your teeth clean really is.

Braces work by applying constant force on your teeth so bacteria doesn’t have a chance to build up between your gum line and enamel.

This process requires proper brushing and flossing, two things that aren’t always possible while playing a game.

A mouthguard works similarly except instead of metal wires, it uses softer plastic material.

This way your teeth remain exposed without being covered by something abrasive, meaning food particles and germs can still get trapped under your gumline.

And because the device is custom molded specifically to fit your individual palate, it won’t interfere with eating and drinking either.

You might feel weird having a piece of rubber shoved down your throat, but it shouldn’t hurt and it usually isn’t uncomfortable unless you’re allergic to latex.

If you’d rather avoid taking yours out altogether, try adding a thin coating of petroleum jelly before putting it back over your teeth.

That way you can brush and floss right afterwards and remove the residue left behind.

Mouthguards do an amazing job of protecting the teeth of athletes, and one study even points out how effective they are at providing oral safety:

“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.”

Source – American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

You need to keep in mind that although the mouthguard does its job by protecting your teeth and gums, it’s not 100 percent effective.

There are certain situations where it just doesn’t matter what kind of protection you choose.

For instance, if someone hits you directly in the nose, causing bleeding inside your nasal passage, nothing short of surgical intervention can stop the flow of blood.

So, make sure that whatever mouthpiece you pick fits your particular needs and buy products made from quality materials that last longer.

Ask your dentist or doctor if he or she thinks you need a different model.

2. To absorb the impact of an accidental hit to the face

why basketball players wear mouthguards - facial impact absorption

Mouthguards act as great shock absorbers when a basketball player suffers a blow to the face.

In fact, mouthguards help soften these blows and lessen the chances of a permanent injury through the way in which they’re constructed and positioned within the mouth.

Have a look at the video below, as it shows the damage that can be done if you’re unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an impactful hit to the jaw:

Dennis Smith Jr most definitely wore a mouthguard in future games after having one of his teeth knocked out!

3. To prevent and reduce the severity of concussions in the event of an injury to the jaw

why basketball players wear mouthguards - to prevent concussions and reduce their severity

Concussions happen when the protective covering called the meninges surrounding your brain suddenly tears, leaving the central nervous system unprotected.

Symptoms include things like dizziness, loss of balance, headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, memory problems and visual impairment.

Although the exact causes vary depending on the person, concussions can be caused by direct blow to the head, whiplash following car accidents, rapid acceleration/deceleration forces, seizures, epilepsy, stroke and many others.

Most cases go away within 72 hours but chronic cases exist as well.

This is where mouthguards come in to save the day.

Because they’re made to absorb the force that comes with collision impacts, mouthguards act as a sort of barrier that reduces the severity of a concussion brought about by a serious body hit.

So yes, wearing a mouthguard can offer some level of comfort and protection against concussions during basketball games, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference and lifestyle choices.

Just remember that there are always trade-offs involved whenever you decide to put anything in your mouth.

Oftentimes, the best option for preventing concussions is simply avoiding them entirely.

That obviously isn’t practical for everyone given that athletics come with inherent dangers.

What makes matters worse is that studies suggest that parents tend to underestimate these threats.

Are NBA players required to wear mouthguards?

There aren’t any specific rules in this basketball competition that stipulate players to wear mouthguards.

NBA players simply wear them out of personal choice, as they want to safeguard their teeth and not have to suffer the cost of dental repairs!

Some examples of basketball players that wear mouthguards include:

  • Steph Curry;
  • Lebron James; and
  • Kevin Durant

In fact, ESPN had a very good breakdown of how many mouthguards Steph Curry uses in a season.

They pointed out that the Golden State Warriors player makes use of approximately 12 mouthguards per campaign, swapping them out after every six to 10 games.

Closing thoughts

This article has comprehensively covered the topic of why basketball players wear mouthguards.

Just to recap…

Wearing a mouthguard can help basketball players minimize physical damage from impacts to their teeth and gums as well as injuries to soft tissues around their lips, cheeks and chin. Mouthguards also help to stabilize the lower jaw during extreme athletic movements like dunking (or layups), which puts pressure on the mandible bone.

If you’ve enjoyed this piece, you may also want to check out our other posts on:

Happy reading!

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.